IN THE NEWS #469 - Air Strikes in Iraq

By Nancy Steinbach

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

American and British planes are continuing to attack Iraqi radar and communications equipment. One of the largest air strikes in several years took place last Friday. The bombings are part of a campaign to prevent the Iraqi air force from attacking minority groups that oppose the Iraqi government.

The campaign began after an international force led by the United States stopped Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in Nineteen-Ninety-One. After the Persian Gulf War ended, Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq revolted against the rule of Saddam Hussein. Iraqi forces attacked and killed thousands of the Kurds and Shiites. To protect the minority groups, Western allies declared safety areas in the north and south of Iraq in which Iraqi planes were not permitted to fly.

American and British military planes fly above these areas to make sure no Iraqi planes are present. Iraq has said it would fire at any plane violating its airspace. American and British planes drop bombs on communication and military targets to protect themselves from being shot down.

American military officials called the strikes last week another self-defense measure. They said the planes dropped about twenty-five bombs on Iraq radar stations last Friday. Later, they said many of the bombs missed their targets. However, the bombs reportedly damaged or destroyed some of the communications equipment that connected parts of a new Iraqi anti-aircraft system.

The communications equipment links radar around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to groups of missiles in southern Iraq. The Iraqis have been using the radar near Baghdad to find American and British planes, then fire missiles at them from the south. The goal of the attacks last Friday was to destroy the communications links among parts of this system.

American officials said most of these Iraqi targets were outside the no-fly area. They also said allied aircraft released their bombs from within the no-fly area.

The new Iraqi defense system has never shot down an American or British plane. But American military officials say Chinese workers are helping Iraq improve the system. The United States says the Chinese help violates United Nations restrictions against Iraq that were declared after the Gulf War. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have expressed strong concerns about it.

Many governments have criticized the recent American and British attacks on targets outside the no-fly areas. Arab citizens have protested against the bombings. Iraq has called for Arabs to protest this weekend as Secretary Powell visits the Middle East on the tenth anniversary of Persian Gulf War

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English