RAF Planes Join in Air Strikes on Iraq; Missiles Fired at Radar Posts near Baghdad

Article excerpt

BRITISH and United States warplanes struck Iraqi air defences around Baghdad last night after an intensification in attacks on allied aircraft by Saddam Hussein's forces.

Twenty four strike aircraft - including four RAF Tornado GR1 bombers - launched precision missile attacks on five command-and-control radar positions south of the Iraqi capital.

The attacks coincided with the arrival of the Prince of Wales in the region for a visit to Saudi Arabia.

The US Joint Staff Director of Operations, Lieut-Gen Gregory Newbold, said the raids appeared to have been carried out ``efficiently and effectively'' with no indications that any of the missiles had gone astray.

Iraqi television claimed that several people were injured in the attacks and showed pictures of the wounded, including women and children, at Baghdad's Yarmouk hos- pital.

The operation, the first against Baghdad since the allied air raids of 1998, was authorised by US President George W Bush on Thursday.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon authorised the RAF involvement.

Gen Newbold said that four of the positions attacked were outside the allies' southern no-fly zone although the aircraft themselves had not crossed the 33rd parallel which marks its northern limit.

All the targets were in the middle of unoccupied areas, he said.

The Ministry of Defence in London said the raids followed an intensification of attacks on allied aircraft by the Iraqi air defences, with more surface- to-air missiles fired in January than in the whole of 2000. …