U.S. Warplanes Strike Iraq, Which Claims 14 Are Killed

From Associated Press

U.S. airstrikes in southern Iraq killed 14 civilians and wounded 17 others Sunday, the Iraqi military said.

The planes entered Iraq from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and "attacked our civilian installations," the military said in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency.

The U.S. forces' Central Command in Florida said earlier that its warplanes had attacked two military sites in southern Iraq after Iraqi antiaircraft guns fired at jets enforcing the "no-fly" zone.

However, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, a Central Command spokesman, said he could not confirm any casualties.

"Battle damage assessment is ongoing. I can't substantiate what they said," Duplessis said.

The death toll is the highest reported by Iraq since it started challenging the planes maintaining the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq in December.

The Iraqi statement said the "enemy planes" caused destruction at the sites hit, but it did not give the nature of the targets or say where they were.

Central Command said the U.S. planes struck a missile battery near Abu Sukhayr, 200 miles south of Baghdad, and a military communications site near Al Khidr, 150 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital.

The command said the U.S. planes used "precision-guided munitions" to hit the targets.

The U.S. statement did not identify the nationality of the planes the Iraqi guns had fired at earlier. But U.S. and British planes patrol the no-fly zones, set up after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect Kurdish rebels in the north and the Shiite Muslim minority in the south.

Iraq does not recognize the zones and has been challenging the patrol planes since December.

In the previous heaviest toll, according to Iraq, allied warplanes killed 11 people, mostly women and children, in a missile strike Jan. 25 in the southern city of Basra.

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