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700-plus coalition aircraft pound Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- About 700 coalition aircraft flew missions against more than 100 targets in Iraq on March 20, said defense officials.

The strikes flew even as planners in the area attempted to determine the results of the strikes against the Iraqi leadership the day before. Targets included command and control facilities, early warning radar sites and surface-to-surface missile systems. Bomb damage assessment efforts continue as more strikes are hitting Iraq, officials said.

Officials stressed that coalition aircraft never target civilians or civilian facilities and go to painstaking lengths to avoid them.

At least 30 oil wells are on fire as British and American troops secure the oil fields in southern Iraq, British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon said March 21.

British officials said Iraqi saboteurs lit the wells as it became clear that coalition forces would secure the area. There are hundreds of oil wells in the area.

Hoon also gave a bit more detail on the crash of a U.S. Marine CH-46 helicopter crash.

"That helicopter was engaged in an operation led by 3 Commando Brigade on the Al Faw peninsula in southeastern Iraq," he said in the House of Commons.

U.S. officials said there was no indication that enemy fire caused the crash that killed four U.S. and eight British Marines.

Another U.S. Marine was killed as his unit entered Iraq on March 20, U.S. officials said.

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