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Air Raid Sirens Sound Over Baghdad

November 27, 2002

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Air raid sirens sounded over the Iraqi capital Wednesday as international arms monitors began their first inspections under a strict new U.N. resolution.

The sirens usually mean an allied air strike somewhere in the vicinity, but there was no immediate word of a strike from Iraqi, U.S. or British officials.

A thin, white line of smoke _ similar to an airplane exhaust _ could be seen in the sky but its source was unclear. No explosions could be heard in central Baghdad.

The international inspectors who went to work in Baghdad Wednesday morning are trying to assess whether the Baghdad government is still committed to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The United States, steadily reinforcing its military might in the region, has warned it will disarm Iraq by force if the inspections fail, with or without international help.

The monitors are back after a four-year break under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council to test the Baghdad government’s contention that it has no arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, or programs to build them.

Saturday, allied planes bombed a mobile radar system in southern Iraq. The U.S. Central Command said the strike came after Iraq moved mobile radar into the southern no-fly zone. The radar provides tracking and guidance for surface-to-air missile systems that can target the planes, the statement said.

The southern ``no-fly″ zone was established to support a U.N. Security Council resolution and protect the area’s Shiite Muslims, whose revolt after the 1991 Gulf War was crushed by government forces. A northern zone is enforced north of the 36th parallel to protect the Kurdish population who also had attempted a postwar uprising that was crushed.

Iraq claims the zones are illegal and frequently fires on the patrolling pilots. None has been brought down.

Update hourly