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U.S. Denies Killing Iraq Civilians

August 24, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The U.S. military denied Tuesday attacking civilian sites in Iraq, saying the Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery which fired at U.S. planes also killed two Iraqi civilians.

Iraq’s armed forces on Monday claimed that American and British planes killed two people in an attack on the town of Ba’shequa, 280 miles north of Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Mike Waters, a spokesman for Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, said the civilians had most probably died from falling Iraqi anti-aircraft rounds, and not bombs fired by allied planes patrolling a no-fly over northern Iraq.

``Saddam Hussein is killing his own people by firing at us,″ Waters said. ``If the artillery doesn’t explode when it’s fired up, it will come down and explode on the ground.″

He said U.S. planes on Monday had struck radar sites 35 miles west of Ba’shequa and could not have killed any civilians at the town itself.

Waters said the U.S. military, taking reconnaissance photographs, on Tuesday also located surface-to-air missiles close to residential areas in the city of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad. The missile launchers were within 115 feet of residential homes.

``The placement of these (missiles) in civilian populated areas is further evidence that the Iraqi military uses civilians as shields for their ... weapons that shoot at coalition aircraft″ Waters said.

British and U.S. planes at Incirlik patrol the skies over northern Iraq to protect the Kurdish minority from Iraqi forces. Another no-fly zone over southern Iraq protects a Shiite minority there.

Baghdad regards the patrols as a violation of its sovereignty and since late December has regularly challenged the allied planes. The United States and Britain have responded by firing on radar and other military sites.

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