Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, December 27, 2002

Iraq Says 3 Killed, 16 Injured in US-British Raids

Three Iraqi civilians were killed and 16 others injured when US and British warplanes bombed southernIraq on Thursday, an Iraqi Air Defense Command spokesman said.


Three Iraqi civilians were killed and 16 others injured when US and British warplanes bombed southern Iraq on Thursday, an Iraqi Air Defense Command spokesman said.

At 7:40 a.m. local time (0440 GMT), US and British planes bombed civilian and service facilities in the southern provinces of Basra and Dhi Qar, killing three Iraqis and wounding 16 more, the spokesman told the official Iraqi News Agency (INA).

Iraq's air defenses fired at the planes and forced them back to their bases in Kuwait, the spokesman added.

An INA correspondent in Dhi Qar was quoted as saying that the US and British warplanes "totally destroyed" a mosque on the outskirts of Nasiriya, the main city of the province, some 350 km south of Baghdad.

"The only thing that survived was the holy Koran," he added.

Another INA reporter in Basra said the Western warplanes attacked the rural Khwizat area in Khur Al Zubair, some 620 km south of Baghdad, where four people were wounded.

Basra and Dhi Qar are within the so-called southern no-fly zone, parallel to another one in northern Iraq.

US and British planes have been patrolling the two no-fly zones since the 1991 Gulf War with the claimed aim of protecting the Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from persecution of the Iraqi government.

Iraq does not recognize the air exclusion zones and has regularly opened fire at the Western planes enforcing the two no-fly zones.

No Proof of Alleged Banned Weapons
Iraq said on Thursday that United Nations arms inspectors have so far found no "direct or indirect" proof of the US allegations that Iraq is secretly developing weapons of mass destruction.

Gen. Hussam Mohammed Amin, chief of the National Monitoring Directorate, Iraq's liaison body with the UN inspectors, made the remarks at a news conference in Baghdad.

The Iraqi official also denied Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's allegation that Iraq had transferred banned weapons to Syria.

"This is absolute lies. These allegations are baseless," Amin said, "Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction."

Sharon said in an interview with Israel's Channel Two television on Tuesday that Israel suspected Baghdad was transferring arms to Syria to hide them from UN weapons inspectors, but gave no evidence to support the intelligence.

Currently, over 100 UN arms experts have been carrying out their almost daily field operations in Iraq searching for banned weapons.

No dispute between the inspectors and their Iraqi "minders" has been reported so far and the Iraqi side has showed an apparent willingness to cooperate.

By Jan. 27, the inspectors will present their first formal report to the UN Security Council about Iraq's weapons programs.

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