- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

U.S. and British warplanes bombed three sites in southern Iraq yesterday in response to increased efforts by Iraqi air defenses to shoot down allied pilots, defense officials said.
It was the largest allied strike against Iraq since February, when 24 allied strike planes targeted five air-defense command-and-control sites around Baghdad.
Yesterday's strike was carried out at 5:30 a.m. by about 20 U.S. and British attack planes plus about 30 support aircraft, said a Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Steve Campbell.
The U.S. planes were launched from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf, another official said, and from land bases in the region that the official would not describe in detail. Some of the support aircraft apparently flew from bases in Saudi Arabia.
The planes struck a military-communications center, a surface-to-air missile-launching site and a long-range radar — all elements of Iraq's integrated air-defense network, Lt. Campbell said. The communications facility was one of the targets in the February attack, other officials said.
"All of these targets were contributing to the effectiveness of the Iraqi air-defense system," Lt. Campbell said.
The spokesman said the allied planes returned safely from Iraqi airspace. He could not immediately provide other details.
The official Iraqi News Agency said the attack — which a government spokesman described as "a cowardly operation targeting civil and service installations" — killed one person and wounded 11.
A White House spokesman said President Bush, who repeatedly called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a menace in recent days, was notified Thursday night of the impending attack, which the White House described as routine, but somewhat heavier than customary.
"We have said all along and repeatedly we will take action to protect the pilots who patrol the no-fly zone," said the spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "This is in keeping with that."
A similar response was offered by Rep. Tom Lantos of California, senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
"This strike against Iraqi military installations was a measured response to protect our pilots and aircraft against increasingly provocative and aggressive Iraqi actions," Mr. Lantos said. "Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein is not going away, and neither can we."
All three targets were in southern Iraq, where U.S. and British planes have been enforcing a no-fly zone since shortly after the end of the 1991 Gulf war to protect Shi'ite rebels against attacks by government forces.
Iraq in recent months has stepped up efforts to shoot down the allied planes patrolling no-fly zones in both southern and northern Iraq.
Iraq considers the zones to be illegal and has mounted a sustained effort to shoot down a U.S. or British plane.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Aug. 3 that Iraq has rebuilt its air defenses since U.S. and British warplanes attacked radar and communications targets around Baghdad on Feb. 16.

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