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Baghdad Says U.S. Bombs Two Houses

April 2, 1999

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Enemy planes bombed southern Iraq today, destroying two houses in the first U.S.-led airstrikes reported in more than two weeks, Iraq’s military said.

Aircraft, including F-14s, F-16s and Tornados, carried out 18 sorties from Kuwaiti skies and 33 from Saudi skies, the official Iraqi News Agency said, quoting an unidentified spokesman for the Air Defenses Command.

U.S. military officials were not immediately available for comment.

The planes targeted residential areas in Afaj, the report said, ``causing the destruction of two residential houses and the injury of two residents.″ Afaj is in Qadissiya province, 135 miles south of Baghdad, the capital.

Iraqi air defenses ``encountered the enemy formations, forcing them to flee to the bases they came from in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,″ INA quoted the spokesman as saying.

Today’s report of airstrikes was the first since March 16, when American warplanes bombed air defense sites in northern Iraq.

Since then, U.S. attention has been focused on Yugoslavia, where it has been participating in NATO-led airstrikes for the past nine days.

The Americans also apparently were reluctant to strike during the annual pilgrimage the Hajj and the Eid Al-Adha, an important Muslim holiday.

Earlier this year, strikes on Iraqi military targets became a near-daily occurrence.

U.S. and British aircraft patrol the skies over northern and southern Iraq, enforcing no-fly zones set up after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect the Kurdish minority and Shiite rebels. Iraq does not recognize the zones and frequently challenges the allied planes, provoking retaliatory strikes.

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