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Iraq bombing 'damaged Saint's tomb'

Tuesday, August 24, 1999

The Ministry of Defence in London says it is investigating reports that British or American planes bombed a Christian monastery near Mosul, in Northern Iraq, earlier this month.

The Church of England said it had received a report that the bombing had damaged the tomb of the fourth century Saint Matthew, who founded the monastery.

The British defence ministry confirmed there had been bombing in the area on the day in question; it said it was aimed against Iraqi anti-aircraft positions, and aerial reconnaissance pictures would be checked to see if any bombs fell on the monastery. Iraq said at the time of the attack that the bombing had killed or wounded a number of Arab astronomers camping near the monastery to observe the total eclipse of the sun.

Tuesday August 24 12:03 PM ET

U.S. Denies Killing Iraq Civilians

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.

Tuesday August 24 2:42 PM ET

Iraq Putting Missiles Near Houses - U.S. Military

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said Tuesday that Iraq had stationed anti-aircraft missiles close to civilian houses in the northern city of Mosul as human shields against attacking planes.

It said new military reconnaissance photographs showed the missile sites were within 35 yards of civilian houses, and proved that Baghdad was willing to use civilians as human shields to protect weapons that track and fire at U.S. and British warplanes patrolling no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

The U.S. military's European Command made the charge in a statement from Germany, the latest volley in a sporadic, nine-month war of bombs and words with Baghdad. It also said that Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, not U.S. bombs, fell back to ground in northern Iraq Monday and killed two Iraqi civilians.

U.S. and British warplanes have regularly bombed surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites and radars in the two no-fly zones since last December when Iraq's military began challenging police overflights by the jets.

"Reconnaissance photographs taken today clearly show two fully-armed SAM launchers stationed within 35 meters of civilian homes" in Mosul, the European command said in the statement from its headquarters in Germany Tuesday.

"The placement of these SAMs in civilian populated areas is further evidence that the Iraqi military uses civilians as shields for their anti-aircraft artillery and other weapons that shoot at coalition aircraft," it said, adding that:

"While such action protects these weapons from coalition aircraft strikes -- 'Operation Northern Watch' will not strike targets where there is a potential for collateral damage -- it endangers Iraqi civilians."

Iraq, which does not recognize the no-fly zones set up by western nations to protect minorities from attack by the Iraqi military, charged Monday that two civilians had been killed by allied bombs in raids in the north.

But the European Command countered Tuesday that the deaths were caused by Iraqi artillery. "Yesterday, Iraqi forces fired at coalition aircraft from a site in Ba'ashiqah, a town 20 miles northeast of Mosul," it said.

"Unexploded shells from this attack fell to the ground, exploded, and killed two civilians and injured another," the statement added. It also said that the U.S. military opted not to strike the populated area where the anti-aircraft guns were fired, instead dropping precision-guided munitions on a radar site some 28 miles west of Ba'ashiqah -- the same site struck in raids on August 15 and 16.

Iraq said Tuesday it had protested to the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights against what it termed deliberate killing by Western warplanes enforcing the no-fly zones. The official Iraqi News Agency quoted a National Assembly letter to the world body as saying that the United States and Britain were committing crimes against humanity "by bombing civilian regions."

Western planes have launched more than 110 strikes against Iraqi targets this year. Iraq reported 20 civilians killed and 10 wounded on August 17 in attacks on targets outside the no-fly zones. Pentagon officials later confirmed that at least one military target just south of the northern no-fly zone had been attacked because it was being actively used for Iraqi air defense. But they said they had no evidence that civilians had been killed.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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