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Iraq Says Broadcasts Unaffected by Bombing

Iraq Says Broadcasts Unaffected by Bombing

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. attempts to silence Iraqi television and radio through heavy aerial attacks have failed, with the country's information minister insisting Monday that the state-sponsored broadcasts were unaffected by the latest attacks.

Despite repeated bombings of the Iraqi Information Ministry and Iraqi transmitters, the local media operation was "as good as it was before" the attacks early Monday, said Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.

The minister said he and several colleagues had helped extinguish flames in the ministry in Baghdad, while technicians repaired the damaged transmitters. The Americans had hoped to cut off television and radio transmissions in an effort to halt Iraqi propaganda.

Iraqi television was off for about three hours Monday morning in Baghdad before the broadcasts resumed.

He condemned the Americans and the British as "saboteurs of the first rate who deserve nothing less than death." Al-Sahhaf's comments echoed those of Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, who warned earlier Monday that only surrender could save coalition troops from a "holocaust."

Al-Sahhaf also claimed that Iraqi fighters had killed 43 coalition soldiers on Sunday. The officials death count released by U.S. and British officials was 65 killed since the war began March 19.

"They deny and spread lies" about their casualties, the minister said. Sabri, meeting with reporters, echoed al-Sahhaf's confident tone.

"Every day that passes the United States and Britain are sinking deeper in the mud of defeat," Sabri said. "... Those two states have no choice but to withdraw early and fast, today before tomorrow."

As he spoke in a news conference at the Information Ministry in Baghdad, a building which was again hit in strikes early Monday, a new air raid was reported in the Iraqi capital.

Around midafternoon, a low-flying aircraft could be heard over central Baghdad and the sound of two explosions followed. The target was a site on the west bank of the Tigris River. Moments later, a huge cloud of white smoke rose from the spot. The area houses many government departments, presidential compounds and other sensitive sites.

Earlier Monday, an armada of B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers struck communication and command centers in Baghdad. The U.S. Central Command said it was the first time in history that long-range B-1s, B-2s and B-52s had carried out simultaneous attacks on the same location.

Cruise missiles set the Information Ministry ablaze in the second such attack on the building in two days. The fire, yards away from a shopping mall named for Saddam Hussein's birthday, was put out after a half-hour.

The 10-story building remained standing. Windows were gone and the outside walls sustained some damage. Witnesses said the interior, especially on the top floors, was severely damaged.

The coalition also bombed a telephone exchange in Baghdad, in the Bab al-Moazim district. The three-story building was heavily damaged, with sections of wall gone, revealing mangled metal and destroyed office furniture and computers. The exchange, which served 25,000 subscribers, was hit in the 1991 Gulf War and rebuilt.

Next door, a 10-story building housing the Baghdad Municipality administration appeared unscathed, with even its windows still in place.

Recorded calls of "God is great" from mosque minarets alerted the people of Baghdad to another night of bombings late Sunday, followed by a huge explosion and then the streaks of anti-aircraft tracers across the sky.

In the past few nights, the mosque loudspeakers have been used as air-raid sirens, with the all-clear signaled by another minaret announcement: "God is great, they are gone."

Coalition bombardments have focused in recent days on Republican Guard units protecting the approaches to Baghdad, in an attempt to wear down Saddam's best-trained forces ahead of a U.S.-led ground assault on the capital.

He also said more than 5,000 Arab volunteers were in Iraq training for "martyrdom attacks."

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

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