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New incident over Iraq's northern no-fly zone

graphic January 7, 1999
Web posted at: 8:03 a.m. EST (1303 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There was another military confrontation over Iraq's northern no-fly zone on Thursday, when a U.S. fighter aircraft fired a missile after being targeted by radar from an Iraqi anti-aircraft position, the U.S. National Security Council said.

NSC spokesman P. J. Crowley said the U.S. pilot reported being locked on by the radar of an Iraqi air defense battery early Thursday.

The pilot then fired a missile at the Iraqi position but could not tell whether it was hit because of heavy cloud cover. The pilot returned to base safely, said Crowley.

Iraqi air traffic was banned in the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq after the Gulf War in order to protect ethnic groups in those parts of the country from attacks by President Saddam Hussein's army.

U.S. and British planes patrol those zones. Iraq considers the no-fly zones illegal.

In the wake of the joint U.S. and British bombing campaign against Iraq last month, Baghdad renewed its challenge of the no-fly zones and threatened to shoot down any aircraft which it considered to be in violation of Iraqi airspace.

No allied aircraft have been hit in the recent Iraqi challenges and exchanges of fire in the northern and southern regions.

U.S. President Bill Clinton has said that the patrols will continue and U.S. pilots are authorized to fire if threatened.

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