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Aircraft respond to Iraqi threats

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Coalition aircraft responded to hostile Iraqi actions March 19 by striking several military targets in southern and western Iraq with precision-guided weapons, according to officials.

The aircraft were participating in Operation Southern Watch and monitoring compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Target battle-damage assessment is ongoing.

The aircraft struck after Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at other aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone. This year, Iraqi air defense troops have fired either surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft more than 170 times.

The targets and locations were identified as: communication sites near Ash Shuaybah, Mudaysis and Ruwayshid; long-range artillery near Az Zubayr; a mobile early-warning radar and an air defense command center at an Iraqi air base in western Iraq; long-range artillery on the Al Faw peninsula; a surface-to-surface missile system near Al Basrah; and an air traffic control radar near Al Basrah.

According to officials, the coalition targeted the communications and radar sites because they enhanced Iraq's integrated air-defense system; the artillery sites were hit because they were a danger to ground troops in Kuwait; and the aircraft struck the air traffic control radar because it was used to direct Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire at coalition aircraft.

The coalition established the southern no-fly zone to ensure the safety of aircraft monitoring Iraqi compliance with U.N. Resolution 688, which forbids the repression of the Iraqi people. The no-fly zone protects the people of southern Iraq.

Coalition aircraft never target civilians or civilian facilities and go to painstaking lengths to avoid them, according to officials.

Earlier in the day, aircraft dropped leaflets containing surrender instructions over suspected Iraqi troop locations. The leaflets gave detailed instructions about how Iraqi troops could avoid being harmed by coalition forces in the event of military action. Although the coalition has dropped millions of leaflets in the last few months, this was the first time that surrender instructions were included. The leaflets were dropped in an attempt to minimize Iraqi casualties if a military conflict occurs.

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