Iranians Shell Iraqi Border City, Provoking New Threat

Associated Press

Iranian forces shelled the Iraqi border city of Basra on Tuesday evening, fulfilling a threat made the day before. Iraq responded with rocket fire and said it will hit 30 Iranian towns in retaliation.

A reporter based in Basra said most of the shells fell on the edge of the city, which has about 1 million residents and is the only major Iraqi city within range of Iran's artillery. He said Iraqi officials did not give any casualty reports.

The 45-minute barrage on the southern provincial capital began at 8:05 p.m., 35 minutes after the time Iran had said it would open fire, and the Iraqis responded less than a minute later with multiple-rocket launchers, according to the reporter. He said the Iranians were using howitzers, firing about one shell per minute.

"For each Iranian shell, the Iraqis are launching dozens of rockets," the reporter said.

An Iraqi military spokesman on state television confirmed the Iranian attack. He gave no details but said Iraq will strike at 30 Iranian towns at 10 a.m. today.

"We call on the population of these cities to evacuate before the deadline expires to avoid the Iraqi anger. Iranian rulers will be responsible for the losses," the spokesman said.

Iran had said in advance that it would shell Basra in retaliation for Iraqi air raids Monday that killed 12 civilians, and it gave the city's residents 12 hours to evacuate.

The actions threatened to scuttle an eight-month-old U.N.-mediated agreement to prevent indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.

Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, is a major port on the Shatt al Arab waterway, which spills into the Persian Gulf. A dispute over control of the waterway set off the war between the two countries in September, 1980.

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