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Strike Eagles destroy Ba'ath leadership facility

WASHINGTON -- A pair of Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles attacked a Ba'ath Party headquarters building in southern Iraq on March 28, where some 200 leaders of the Iraqi "irregular forces" were meeting.

According to Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, U.S. Central Command director of operations, the attack was meant to destroy some of the terror cells that are holding hostage many of the cities in southern Iraq.

"Each time we make one of these attacks, we degrade the regime," Renuart said during the daily CENTCOM press briefing at the command's forward headquarters in Qatar on March 29.

Renuart said the strike on the building, northeast of Basra, came about when small special operations teams got close enough to identify the location of the meeting, tell Operation Iraqi Freedom leaders and call in the air strike.

"The targets are picked as they're vetted by the intelligence community," Renuart said. "We're confident in their ability to give us good information."

While the attack on the building is believed to have claimed about 200 lives, Renuart said targets are not necessarily selected with that in mind.

"Our intent in (attacking) many of the command and control facilities is not necessarily to kill people, but to take away capability that facility allows," he said.

Many command facilities are unoccupied by people, but they house key switching systems for communications networks, such as fiber optics and coaxial cable repeaters, he said.

"There is significant military value in each command and control (facility) that allows the Iraqis to communicate with their units," he said.

Besides targeting regime, military and command networks, coalition air forces continue to expand their freedom of movement over Iraq, Renuart said.

Coalition forces have taken control of Iraqi airfields and, in some cases, are conducting combat search and rescue, close air support and logistics mission from them.

"We've taken advantage of very rapid sensor-to-shooter links in order to retarget our airmen to respond to situations on the battlefield that commanders feel are critical," Renuart said.

"It's a great story of a combined nature -- these are U.S., U.K. and Australian airmen responding through pretty rotten weather ... to engage ... targets, and we're seeing success as we expected," he said.

The coalition is experiencing, and expects to maintain, total air dominance over Iraq, Renuart said.

"The Iraqi air force has not flown an airplane. They've not had the capability or shown the inclination to fly," Renuart said. "I am absolutely comfortable that the air component commander has a number of airmen up there who would be ecstatic if the Iraqis tried to fly."

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