U.S. launches missile strikes against Iraq
September 3, 1996
Web posted at: 7:40 a.m. EDT (1140 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States launched missile
strikes against Saddam Hussein early Tuesday in retaliation
for his army's assault on Kurdish areas in a United Nations
"safe haven" in northern Iraq. (20 secs/930K QuickTime movie)
Navy ships and Air Force B-52 bombers fired a total of 27
cruise missiles at "selected air defense targets" in southern
Iraq for about a 45-minute period beginning midmorning, the
Pentagon told CNN.
President Clinton ordered the mission and was expected to
make a formal statement about it at 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday,
The 23,000 U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf remained on "a
very high state of alert," braced for "any possible response"
from Iraq, officials said.
In an address televised on Iraqi state-owned telvision,
Saddam urged his troops to resist U.S. strikes and declaring
the Western allies' "no-fly zones," which are off-limits to
Iraqi military planes, to be null and void. The speech came
shortly after Britain announced that the "no-fly zone" in
southern Iraq would be expanded to the north.
Saddam also claimed damage from the U.S. strikes was minimal
and many missiles were downed. Saddam also claimed that the
missiles struck civilian areas, causing high numbers of
But U.S. military sources told CNN that the missile attacks
focused on air defense command and control facilities in
relatively unpopulated areas of southern Iraq.
Iraq's envoy in London condemned the U.S. attack as
unjustified and said Iraq had the right to retaliate.
"My government has condemned strongly this act of
aggression," Ibrahim Zuhair, charge d'affaires in London,
told Sky Television.
"It's unjustified and we feel Iraq has the right to retaliate
because we consider it unjustified, committed to terrorize
Air strike numbers
The Pentagon was waiting for damage assessment reports after
disclosing the attack at 1:55 a.m. EDT, about 30 minutes
after air raid sirens sounded in Baghdad. Hours earlier,
Clinton signed off on military and economic sanctions against
The Pentagon initially indicated Baghdad targets were
included, but later corrected that report. Sites in and
around Al Kut, Al Iskandariyah, An Nasiriyah and Tallil were
targeted, military officials said. Witnesses told Reuters
that anti-aircraft fire was launched for a period from some
positions in Baghdad.
"The strike is over ... Every missile has been launched,"
said a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of
But the Pentagon refused to rule out "the possibility of
follow-on strikes" against the same or other targets.
Fourteen of the missiles were launched by the Navy cruiser
USS Shiloh and destroyer USS Laboon in the northern Persian
Gulf, and 13 were launched by Air Force B-52 "Stratofortress"
bombers that flew in from Guam, according to military sources
who asked not to be named.
The cruise missiles were Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles
(TLAMs) and Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) with high
QuickTime movie of Air Launch Cruise Missiles similar to
those used against Iraq)
Eight of the Navy's TLAMs were launched from the destroyer
USS Laboon (DDG 58), and six were fired from the cruiser USS
Shiloh (CG 68). The 13 ACLMs were deployed from Air Force B-
Britain provided logistical support for the operation, as
U.S. B-52s flying to the Persian Gulf from Guam refueled at a
base in the Indian Ocean, said Britain Defense Secretary
Shortly before the air strikes, the United States and Britain
advised all of their citizens to leave Iraq immediately.
Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole issued a
statement, praising U.S. troops and pushing for "decisive
action" against Saddam.
"America and its allies and friends around the world can no
longer tolerate Saddam's repeated attempts to erode the
restraints that have been placed on his regime, and to
violently reassert his authority," Dole said.
Allies expanding southern "no-fly
In another disciplinary gesture toward Baghdad, Britain
reported that the southern "no-fly zone" would expand north
from the 32nd parallel to the 33rd, effective Wednesday.
The change will allow allied planes to fly within 30 miles of
Baghdad. The southern zone, like its counterpart in the
north, is patrolled by British, French and U.S. aircraft. No
extra aircraft are expected to be required.
The safe haven in northern Iraq, which aims to protect Kurds
and which was also set up at the end of the Gulf War in 1991,
remains unaffected, British foreign office officials said.
Iraqi troop movement
The strikes followed a White House report that it had
evidence Saddam's troops were moving toward the Kurdish
stronghold of Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz denied the White
House claims, and said in the official Iraqi News Agency that
Iraqi troops would withdraw Tuesday to the positions they
held before Friday's assault.
Iraqi forces were apparently trying to consolidate the
positions of pro-Saddam Kurdish troops against those Kurdish
groups opposed to Iraq, said White House press secretary Mike
U.N. officials reported Iraq had withdrawn from the Kurdish
city of Irbil in northern Iraq two days after routing the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and installing the pro-
Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
But McCurry said Monday the Iraqis, despite U.S. warnings,
were showing no signs of engaging in any militarily
significant withdrawal from Irbil.
"Our interest is in keeping Saddam Hussein from believing
that unjustifiable behavior of this nature is cost-free,'
Iraqi troops in Irbil have executed Kurdish opponents, and
there were "extensive" casualties, he said.
Military intelligence indicated three divisions of Iraqi
troops remained outside Irbil, north of the 36th parallel
that designates the Iraqi "no-fly zone" marked off by the
U.S., France, Britain and the United Nations, said McCurry.
The offensive, the first by Iraq since shortly after the end
of the 1991 war, involved 30,000 to 40,000 Republican Guard
troops equipped with heavy artillery and surface-to-air
missiles, officials said.
In justifying its weekend attack, Iraq accused the PUK of
cooperating with Baghdad's long-time enemy Iran.
The White House said U.N. Security Council resolutions
approved after the 1991 war provided the legal basis for
responding to Saddam's actions.
Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, made urgent trips to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to
rally Arab support for a U.S. military strike.
Saudi Arabia agreed to cooperate in any U.S. retaliatory
action, Saudi sources told The Associated Press on condition
of anonymity. Jordan said it declined to support military
operations. Egypt declined to comment.
Correspondents John Holliman, Claire Shipman, Wolf
Blitzer, Peter Arnett and Jamie McIntyre, The Associated Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.
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