Baghdad braces as 4th night of bombing begins
Britain: Attacks won't stop until objectives achieved
In this story:
Web posted at: 11:33 a.m. EST (1633 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Pentagon officials said Saturday a fourth night of bombing was under way in Iraq, and witnesses in Baghdad said anti-aircraft fire flashed across the sky as more explosions rocked the capital.
As the new wave of attacks began, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said that in response to the airstrikes, Baghdad will end all dealings with the U.N. Special Commission charged with certifying that Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.
"The Special Commission is now behind us," Ramadan told a news conference. "Its only mission in Iraq now is to find a cover for the genitals of those who want to carry out aggression against Iraq."
Asked about casualties caused by the raids, Ramadan said: "The number of martyrs amongst civilians is tens of times higher than that of military personnel." He gave no figures.
U.S. officials said the latest bombing phase would not be as intensive as Friday night's raid by U.S.-British forces, but that more key military sites were targeted.
British Defense Secretary said the U.S.- British airstrikes hit major military targets Friday night and early Saturday, including the headquarters of the elite Republican Guards, and substantially damaged Iraq's "chemical and biological war machine."
Robertson said the attacks would continue until objectives were met.
An Iraqi official said U.S. and British forces had targeted hospitals and health centers in Iraq and that dozens of civilians had been killed during the air raids, although the casualty figures remained unclear Saturday.
Robertson said British Tornado bombers struck the headquarters of President Saddam Hussein's crack Republican Guard, and cruise missiles hit the ruling Baath Party headquarters and other presidential sites.
"Damaging the Republican Guard means damaging (Hussein's) capacity to threaten his neighbors. It is a key target for us," Robertson said.
He said more than 100 targets had been attacked during the bombing campaign.
"We are still assessing the full impact of the damage we have inflicted. However, it is already clear we have inflicted substantial damage on Saddam's chemical and biological war machine and set back his ambition to threaten his neighbors," Robertson said.
U.S. Defense Department officials said late Friday the attacks against Iraq could end within hours, but a decision on whether to continue the raids would not be made until President Bill Clinton met with his national security team on Saturday.
Meanwhile, a second U.S. aircraft carrier battle group -- led by the USS Carl Vinson -- moved into the Gulf to join the USS Enterprise, U.S. Navy officials said.
The 72,800-ton Carl Vinson carries about 60 attack warplanes and a crew of some 5,000. Its escort group includes warships armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Carl Vinson's sister ship, the Enterprise, heads a fleet of about 20 U.S. warships in the Gulf. Both vessels are nuclear-powered.
The addition of the second carrier brings U.S. air strength in the region to more than 300 warplanes. Most are shore- based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf Arab states.
"Some 300 Tomahawk Cruise missiles have been fired, and around 100 air-launch Cruise missiles have been used," Robertson said. "Coalition forces have attacked about 100 separate, precise military targets."
Iraq said Saturday its forces shot down 23 out of 60 missiles fired at it during the third night of the raids.
"The criminal American and British enemy fired 60 missiles between 1650 (1350 GMT) on Friday ... and 0900 (0600 GMT) on Saturday. Our anti-aircraft forces shot down 23 aggressive missiles," said a statement by the leadership of the joint armed forces, issued by the official Iraqi News Agency.
On Friday, Iraq said it had shot down 77 out of 305 missiles fired in the first two days of raids.
The third wave of attacks, the fiercest so far, began when cruise missiles streaked into Baghdad early Saturday, setting off loud, glowing explosions and lighting up one tall building like a flare.
The attacks died away only minutes before Iraqi Muslims started to observe Islam's most holy month of Ramadan.
As Iraqis emerged from the bomb shelters to pray for victory, Clinton broadcast a Ramadan message to the Arab world on Saturday, saying the U.S.-led airstrikes on Iraq were in the interests of the entire Middle East.
Iraqi officials staged a public funeral procession through Baghdad in which 68 taxis carried coffins which they said contained the bodies of victims from the attacks.
Iraqi Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak was quoted Saturday as saying U.S. and British forces had targeted hospitals and health centers around Iraq in their three days of air raids.
The official Iraqi News Agency quoted him as saying the attacks had killed "a large number of patients and workers" at the hospitals, but gave no details.
The Western forces hit Saddamiya Hospital in the southern town of Qurna on the first night of raids, returning to strike it again on the second round in the early hours of Friday, Mubarak said.
In the second series of attacks, they hit the Saddam Teaching Hospital in the Salahudin province north of Baghdad, he said, adding that Saddam Medical City and Al-Liqa Maternity Hospital were also damaged in the raids.
Mubarak said during the second night of strikes that 25 people had been killed in Baghdad alone.
Iraq Oil Ministry officials said Saturday that Iraq's crude oil exports under the U.N.-approved oil-for-food program were continuing, despite some damage to oil facilities from the missiles.
The officials said the exports were averaging 1.8 million barrels per day from the Al-Bakr port on the Gulf and terminals at the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.
They said a main pumping station on Iraq's strategic pipeline close to Basra was hit in the raids and workers are repairing the damage. The officials also said missiles hit a refinery in the southern city of Basra but that the damage was repairable.
Saturday's attack came hours after Hussein defied Washington and London and called on Arabs to resist what he called the agents of Satan.
"By God, we will not compromise," thundered the 61-year-old leader.
"We stand against the barbaric ways of those that have used our airspace to launch an aggression against our people," Hussein said in a taped television address broadcast by the Qatar television station al-Jazeera.
"A curse on the agents of Satan," Hussein added.
Iraqi newspapers took up the theme Saturday with fierce condemnation of the United States and Britain and appealed to all Arabs to unite against them.
"Now the doors are open wide for Arabs to enter Iraq to take part in the decisive battle of Um al-Ma'rik (the mothers of all battles)," the Al-Qadissiya newspaper said.
Iraq, however, canceled its request for a weekend meeting of the Arab League to discuss the airstrikes, officials said Saturday.
Moeen Mola Hameed, Iraq's representative at the Cairo-based organization, said: "We asked for an emergency meeting by the Arab League and we were forced to cancel it based on orders I received from the (Iraqi) leadership."
Officials had said on Thursday that the league's council would meet on Saturday or Sunday.
"Maybe the reason of cancellation is the weak official position of Arab governments toward the strike," Hameed said, adding that some Western countries and China and Russia showed stronger positions by comparison.
Iran Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called Friday for an end to the bombings.
"As the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference ... Iran declares the extreme concern of the public opinion in the Islamic world about these attacks, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan, and calls for an immediate end to the attacks," Kharrazi was quoted as saying by IRNA, the official state news agency.
Kharrazi protested to Britain after a stray missile fired against Iraq landed in its territory and damaged property, IRNA reported.
The missile crashed into Iran's southwestern border city of Khorramshahr on Thursday, damaging property within a 200- meter (990-foot) radius and causing panic. There was no report of injuries.
Iraqi officials continued their verbal attacks on the United States and chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler.
The United States and Britain launched the airstrikes against Iraq late Wednesday over its refusal to cooperate with the U.N. weapons-inspection team.
Butler is "a chief pawn in the hands of the United States, used whenever the United States wants (to) use (him)," said Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz at a news conference Friday.
Aziz called Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "Zionists" and "liars" for not respecting the month of Ramadan.
"The timing of (the bombing) coincided with the failure of (Clinton's) visit to Israel and with another incident which I don't want to mention," Aziz said. The latter reference apparently referred to the Congressional debate over whether Clinton should be impeached over charges relating to his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Correspondent Brent Sadler and Reuters contributed to this report.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.