Iraq claims 7 killed, 4 injured in allied airstrike

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A U.S.-British airstrike in southern Iraq killed seven civilians and wounded four, the Iraqi military said Saturday.

An unidentified military spokesman told the official Iraqi News Agency that warplanes bombed areas in Najaf province, 93 miles south of Baghdad on Friday.

The report didn't provide further details. The U.S. military did not comment immediately and it was impossible to independently verify the claim.

U.S. and British warplanes monitoring no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq regularly attack Iraqi military facilities in what they say is response to hostile Iraqi fire.

The zones were established shortly after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurdish and Shiite Muslim groups. Iraq, which considers the zones violations of its sovereignty, frequently tries to shoot down allied planes.

On Friday, a Pentagon statement said the bombing was in response to Iraq's firing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns at American and British warplanes patrolling a no-fly zone.

It was the first coalition strike on Iraq since President Saddam Hussein's government accepted the Security Council resolution Wednesday that demanded he disarm and allow inspectors to search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Under the resolution, a material breach must be reported to the Security Council for new debate and could be used as possible justification for U.S.-led military action to remove Saddam's government.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in Washington Friday the government considers the firing a material breach, but could not say whether or when American officials would raise the issue with the United Nations.

State Department spokesman Frederick Jones said the United States had the option of reporting the Iraqi firing to the Security Council but had not decided whether to do so.


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