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U.S. denies hitting Iraqi mosque


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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida (CNN) -- The U.S. disputed on Friday claims by Iraq that coalition aircraft struck a mosque in southern Iraq.

On Thursday, Iraq said a coalition strike hit multiple targets, including a mosque and that three people were killed in the attacks.

Coalition warplanes struck Iraqi military command and control facilities, the Central Command said. The strike took place Thursday in response to Iraqi aircraft violating the southern no-fly zone.

The U.S. military's Central Command said the facilities, struck with precision-guided munitions, were near Talil, 175 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Central Command said a bomb damage assessment carried out following the attack showed that no mosque was hit.

An Iraqi military spokesman said planes targeted civilian sites in the provinces of Basra and Nassiriyah, killing three people and wounding 16. He said anti-aircraft guns fired at the jets and forced them to return to bases in Kuwait. He said a mosque was bombed on the outskirts of Nassiriyah.

Central Command did not address the claim of casualties.

The last strike in the southern no-fly zone was December 20, Central Command said.

Without a United Nations resolution, U.S. and British aircraft have enforced "no-fly" zones -- which Iraq does not recognize -- in northern and southern Iraq since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to protect Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by the Iraqi government.

Iraqi officials insist that the zones violate the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and they refuse to recognize them.

Since December 1998, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has challenged the enforcement by firing at coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery and by targeting them with radar, the command said.

As of last September, the Pentagon had counted more than 130 incidents of Iraqi surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery fire directed against coalition aircraft this year.

U.S. President George W. Bush has threatened military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling for it to disarm itself of alleged weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad has repeatedly denied possessing such weapons -- chemical, nuclear or biological.

On December 7 Iraq delivered to U.N. weapons inspectors 11,000-pages of what Baghdad said were details of its weapons of mass destruction programs and possible facilities that might be used to develop them.

U.N. Resolution 1441 -- passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on November 8 -- demanded the Iraqi documents be handed over by December 8.

The resolution also called on Iraq to abide by all the U.N. resolutions that Iraq promised to follow in a cease-fire agreement reached after it lost the Gulf War.



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