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Inquiry Suggests Crater Made by Remnants of Colliding Missiles With AM-Gulf Rdp Bjt

January 21, 1991

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ A crater in a Riyadh residential neighborhood may have been made by falling debris from the collision of an Iraqi missile and an American missile that intercepted it, U.S. military sources said Monday.

They said investigators found pieces of metal tentatively identified as coming from an Iraqi Scud and a Patriot anti-missile missile after the blast, which damaged a building and dug a hole five feet deep in a vacant lot.

U.S. officials said the Scud was one of nine fired into Saudi Arabia by Iraqi gunners during the night. Patriots knocked six out of the sky near Riyadh and two others were intercepted as they plunged toward Dhahran, site of a major air base on the Perrsian Gulf coast 150 miles south of Kuwait.

The ninth fell into the gulf between the Saudi shore and the nearby island state of Bahrain.

In a briefing in Bahrain on Monday, Commodore Ken Summers of the Canadian navy said a Patriot missile was fired there, and British officials said a missile hit the water north of the island.

While they appeared to be talking about the same incident, it was not clear whether a Patriot from Bahrain hit the incoming Scud before it fell into the gulf. U.S. spokesmen said they could not comment immediately on the Bahrain report.

Monday’s bombardment raised to 17 the number of Scuds known to have been fired by Iraq since the war began Jan. 17. The total includes one intercepted earlier at Dhahran and seven that were launched into Israel, inflicting damage in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The United States rushed several Patriot batteries to Israel, manned by American soldiers.

American commanders are buoyed by the 10-for-10 success of the Patriots, which cost $1 million each and are undergoing their first combat test after 11 years of development marked by controversy over technical problems.

″Every Scud missile that has been launched at Riyadh or Dhahran has been successfully engaged by a Patriot missile,″ Maj. Gen. Burton R. Moore, chief of plans for U.S. Central Command, told the daily news briefing.

Senior officials have made the destruction of Iraq’s mobile missile launchers a top priority.

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the gulf, said Sunday he believed the allies ″have managed to neutralize″ Iraq’s estimated 30 fixed Scud launchers.

He added, however, that allied forces were having difficulty with the 20- plus mobile launchers, truck-like vehicles that can move and fire the 30- foot projectiles from various locations.

Moore would not say how many launchers of either type the Iraqis may have had to begin with or how many had been destroyed, but conceded the campaign was far from complete.

″We have taken some of them out, but we are nowhere near our objective,″ he said. ″We have not achieved 100 percent of our objective in taking out fixed and mobile launchers.″

Moore said military experts still were not sure whether the crater in Riyadh and ″collateral damage″ to a nearby building were caused by debris from an intercepted Scud or a Patriot that malfunctioned on launch.

The Patriot uses advanced phased-array radar to spot, identify and track an incoming missile, then attacks it with a 200-pound explosive warhead.

Update hourly