- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) — U.S. military forces have carried out a string of attacks on Iraqi military targets in the no-fly zone and have blanketed the region with around 2 million propaganda leaflets over the last five days, as the possibility of attack grows more imminent.

Military officials say the number of aircraft sorties into the no-fly zones have at least doubled over the last week, both to exercise U.S. pilots for combat runs and to confuse the Iraqi military about the onset of the war. Without the increase, a sharp spike in sorties would signal the Iraqis the war has begun, which would unleash greater resistance.

The Iraqi response to U.S. overflights is somewhat muted by the existence of the no-fly zones, although there are frequent attempts to shoot down U.S. aircraft, according to the Pentagon. If a war begins, Pentagon officials say the Iraqi air defenses will be fully fired up and more dangerous, and they want to delay that eventuality as long as possible.

On Monday, coalition forces bombed a "highly mobile" radar system, part of a surface-to-air missile system, that was moved into the southern no-fly zone, about 230 miles from Baghdad. Coalition forces also dropped 480,000 leaflets directing Iraqis to radio frequencies where they can hear allied messages about Saddam Hussein.

On Sunday, U.S. aircraft dropped precision munitions on five unmanned, underground military communication sites just 60 miles from Baghdad after Iraqi forces fired a surface-to-air missile at coalition aircraft in the region, U.S. Central Command announced.

Also Sunday, aircraft dropped 180,000 leaflets with messages ranging from good wishes to the "noble Iraqi people," to warnings not to sabotage oil wells and to general warnings of destruction if they take an offensive posture.

On Saturday, coalition forces bombed a mobile missile guidance radar system 230 miles west of Baghdad. They also bombed four military communications sites about 125 miles southeast of Baghdad after aircraft were fired on by artillery.

Also Saturday, coalition aircraft dropped 720,000 leaflets over southern Iraq, mostly around military sites. There were five different leaflets warning against chemical or biological weapons, telling Iraqis where to tune their radios to hear U.S. messages, and warning them not to oppose coalition forces.

On Friday, coalition forces bombed a surface-to-air missile system 230 miles west of Baghdad after Iraqi forces moved a mobile radar system into the southern no-fly zone.

On Thursday, coalition forces dropped 660,000 leaflets about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.

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