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Officials discuss progress of air war

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM --  An F-15C Eagle from the 363rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off for an Operation Iraqi Freedom sortie March 23. Aircraft from the 363rd EFS work around the clock flying missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Hannen)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- An F-15C Eagle from the 363rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off for an Operation Iraqi Freedom sortie March 23. Aircraft from the 363rd EFS work around the clock flying missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Hannen)

WASHINGTON -- As the number of sorties flown by coalition air forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom reaches into the thousands, officials from U.S. Central Command said March 24 they were pleased with the results of those efforts.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, CENTCOM commander, told reporters during a press briefing at the command's forward headquarters in Qatar that coalition aircraft were pounding Iraqi regime and military targets in a number of different regions throughout the country.

"Our air forces continue to strike regime command and control and military formations virtually all over the country with precision munitions and precision application of those munitions," he said.

Reporters in Qatar were shown a series of videos and slides indicating damage to a variety of targets, such as Iraqi command bunkers, barracks and equipment, including a MiG fighter jet that had been towed away from an airfield.

"These are images from different regime targets that have been attacked over the last several days, just to demonstrate the nature of that effectiveness and let you see it for yourself," said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy operations officer.

The targets included the headquarters of the "enforcement arm of the Iraqi regime"; the Iraqi intelligence service, which Brooks said has ties to terrorism throughout the world; and barracks facilities of the Palace Guard, responsible for the protection of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

While air strikes have been conducted throughout the country, Brooks said the attacks in and around the capital city of Baghdad have been particularly effective. He stressed that a primary goal of all coalition aircraft is minimal damage to civilian areas and infrastructure.

"We remain committed to minimizing the potential effects on the people of Iraq and also the infrastructure," he said. "We strive for precision engagement in all we do. We want to be very precise about what it is we are targeting, how we choose to target it, and also to minimize the effects on things we don't intend to attack."

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