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U.S. Planes Strike South of Baghdad

February 16, 2001

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ U.S. and British warplanes struck south of the Iraqi capital on Friday night, triggering anti-aircraft fire and driving frightened residents into their homes.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the mission targeted Iraqi air defense targets south of Baghdad and was meant to destroy radar systems that had been threatening American and British aircraft.

Some of the Iraqi radars were located north of the 33rd Parallel, which marks the outer limit of the ``no-fly″ zone that U.S. and British planes have been enforcing over southern Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

The allied warplanes struck those targets without crossing outside the zone, using ``standoff″ weapons that zero in on targets from a distance, where the pilot is safer, the Pentagon official said.

In Baghdad, sirens started wailing at about 9 p.m., followed soon after by explosions from anti-aircraft weaponry from the southern and western outskirts of the city.

The airstrikes disturbed the quiet of Friday’s Muslim Sabbath in the city, and many returned to their houses and huddled together in fear. Just over a half-hour after the sirens first sounded, more sirens announced the end of the airstrikes.

State-run TV aired its regular newscast. Another station, al-Shabab TV, began playing patriotic songs and showing footage of commandos training and marching.

The last time Baghdad’s sirens wailed was Feb. 24, 1999, when U.S. aircraft attacked targets south of the capital, killing and wounding several people.

U.S. and British warplanes have been patrolling no-fly zones in the north and south of the Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. The allies say the planes never target civilians, but Iraq often reports civilian casualties. Iraq does not recognize the no-fly zones and has been challenging allied aircraft since December 1998.

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