Basra Hit by US Missile attack

BAGHDAD,  Jan 25 (South News) -US and British warplanes carried out "savage" air raids on civilian and economic targets in the Basra region of south Iraq on Monday, killing a number of civilians, the official news agency INA said.

"The enemy US and British planes have continued their savage raids against a number of residential areas and economic targets in the province of Basra," more than 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of the capital, it said.

Residents of the Basra neighborhood of al-Jumhuriya sit in front of their destroyed house January 25, 1999In the first reported sustained raids since the Desert Fox air war last month, Basra airport and Rumeila oilfield near the Kuwaiti border were targeted, INA said. Maverick air-to-ground missiles were used in the attacks.

The official Iraqi News Agency reported earlier today that a US missile hit a crowded area in the southern city of Basra, killing and wounding civilians.

The agency said a missile hit the al-Jumhuriya section of the city, some 500 kilometres from the Iraqi capital, at 9:30 a.m. local time. Quoting its correspondent in the city, the agency said several houses were destroyed.

"According to first estimates, a certain number of citizens were killed and a number injured, mostly women and children," it said. INA said "residential apartments were destroyed" and that civil defence teams evacuated the area.

The Iraqi agency gave no figure for the number killed and wounded, but said most victims appeared to be women and children. Civil defense vehicles were rushed to the area to evacuate the wounded, the agency said.

The agency quoted witnesses as saying the missile was seen coming from the direction of Saudi Arabia to the southwest before it struck.

On Sunday, U.S. aircraft attacked two surface-to-air missile sites in separate incidents, US officials reported in Washington. It was a second day in a row that US jets fired on Iraqi targets enforcing a US-British declared flight-interdiction zone.

Iraq's challenge to the legimitacy of the two "no-fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq has increasing support. Non -aligned countries meeting at their 12th NAM summit in Durban last year deplored the US imposed no fly zones on Iraq

"The Heads of State or Government deplored the imposition and continued military enforcement of No Fly Zone" on Iraq by individual countries without any authorisation from the UN Security Council or General Assembly", the NAM final communique said on Sept 4 1998.

In a "limited assessment" of the impact of the December 16-19 air strikes compiled by the UN Children's Fund, the World Food Program and the UN's Baghdad office found that one of the main water systems in Baghdad's Karrada suburb was hit by a cruise missile, cutting off supplies to about 300,000 people. UNICEF has asked the U.N. Security Council's sanctions committee to approve water treatment materials immediately, saying the city was faces a shortage of clean water.

Extensive damage was done to a World Food Program warehouse in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, containing 2,600 metric tonnes of rice. At least half of the rice was destroyed or burned by a missile on the first day of the four-day strikes, which left "a vast crater in the stockpiles of rice".

The World Food Program also found stocks were particularly critical in the southern Basra governorate, where 18 per cent of monthly food requirements were available.