The independent Interfax news agency today quoted Soviet Defense Ministry sources saying that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had his top air force and air defense commanders shot after big losses in the Persian Gulf War.
The Iraqi Embassy in Moscow immediately denied the report, saying it was part of a psychological warfare campaign being waged against Baghdad.
Interfax said “well-informed military sources” told it Hussein had ordered the executions after U.S.-led forces launched air strikes Jan. 17, apparently catching the Iraqi forces unprepared.
“The cause of the execution was the destruction of 26 Scud missiles out of 100 which Iraq has available and the destruction of 300 aircraft out of 700,” said a report by the agency’s diplomatic correspondent.
An Interfax editor said the executions took place a few days ago, after the first strikes on Iraq by allied air forces. “We have confirmation of this from several sources,” he said.
The Soviet Defense Ministry and the Pentagon said they could neither confirm nor deny the report.