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Iraq Accuses U.S. of Targeting Civilians

Iraq Accuses U.S. of Targeting Civilians

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's health minister Thursday said 36 civilians were killed and 215 wounded in U.S. airstrikes on Baghdad a day earlier, and he accused U.S.-led forces of deliberately targeting civilians to break the people's will.

Loud explosions were heard in and around Baghdad again Thursday, and witnesses said an unknown number of people were killed and injured when a housing complex for employees of a weapons-producing facility came under attack. The Military Industrialization Authority of Iraq complex is in the Al-Youssifiah area, about 12 miles south of the capital.

Another blast about 700 yards west of the Information Ministry, possibly from a missile, sent scores of journalists fleeing.

Anti-aircraft guns on the roof of the ministry opened fire, witnesses said, but there was no immediate information on damage or casualties.

One of Baghdad's main telephone facilities also was hit early Thursday, causing some disruptions in service.

Wednesday's attack on a marketplace in Baghdad's northern Al-Shaab neighborhood killed 14 people, and Iraqi officials blamed U.S. cruise missiles. The U.S. military denied it had targeted the neighborhood.

"They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their morale," Iraqi Health Minister Omeed Medhat Mubarak said. "They are not discriminating, differentiating."

He said Wednesday's civilian death toll in Baghdad was 36, and put the total number of civilian deaths at 350 since the U.S.-led war on Iraq began a week ago.

In Qatar, the U.S. military said "it was entirely possible" that an Iraqi missile was responsible for Wednesday's marketplace explosion.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said there was an Iraqi missile battery near the neighborhood and that Iraqi has been using old missile stock fired with guidance systems turned off.

"We think it is entirely possible that this may have been an Iraqi missile that went up and came down, or, given the behaviors of the regime lately, it may have been a deliberate attack inside of town," Brooks said.

He said the United States had an air mission in the area but not in the neighborhood that was devastated by the explosion.

"We did have an air mission that attacked some targets, not in that area but in an another area, and they did encounter some surface-to-air missile fire," Brooks told the daily briefing at the coalition headquarters.

Meanwhile, one of the fiercest sandstorms Baghdad has ever seen gave way to blue skies Thursday, raising fears among inhabitants that they were in for a day of intensive bombings.

They worried that allied forces would try to make up for two days during which the storm grounded U.S. warplanes and slowed down the advance on the Iraqi capital.

Residents awoke to find everything from cars to dining tables, windows and books under a coat of fine yellow desert sand.

Parts of the city looked almost normal, with hardly a store shuttered, hundreds of shoppers milling around, and the streets jammed with what looked like the usual traffic. But Baghdad's defenders rekindled fires intended to obscure bombing targets, sending clouds of gray smoke drifting across the sky.

Iraqi TV was still on, but the picture was poor, and it was unclear whether the signal was being received outside Baghdad.

Jomaa al-Qurishi, 29, sold newspapers in Abu Nawas Street, a road famous for its art galleries and fish restaurants, on the east bank of the Tigris River.

"I have been selling newspapers at this spot for 13 years and no bombs are going to stop me," he said. "Death comes to you at any time wherever you may be."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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