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U.S. Jets Fire on Iraqi Missile Site

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 1998 – U.S. fighter jets patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq fired on an Iraqi missile site after it launched surface-to-air missiles at them Dec. 28.

Speaking at an unrelated event at the Old Executive Office Building, President Clinton vowed to continue enforcing the no-fly zones, which, he said, remains an important part of U.S. policy to contain Iraq.

"Because we effectively control the skies over much of Iraq, Saddam has been unable to use air power to repress his own people or to lash out against his neighbors," Clinton said.

Defense officials said the Iraqis fired three SA-3 surface- to-air missiles at a group of four U.S. F-15Es. A short time later, the site fired another missile at a U.S. F- 16CJ. U.S. aircraft fired three HARM missiles at the Iraqi radars, then three F-15Es dropped a total of six GBU-12 precision guided bombs on the area. "Initial analysis shows the radar site and the command and control facilities were destroyed," said Army Lt. Col. Stephen Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman. "All U.S. aircraft returned to base safely."

Iraq had announced two days earlier it would fire on any aircraft flying in the no-fly zones established after the Gulf War. The United States and Britain have enforced the no-fly zone in the north since 1991 and in the south since 1992.

The U.S. aircraft took appropriate action in responding to the Iraqi attack, the president said. "Our pilots have the authority to protect themselves if they're threatened or attacked."

Clinton praised the pilots for "the work they do, the risks they take, the skill and the professionalism with which they do it."

No U.S. aircraft patrolled over northern Iraq, Dec. 29, Air Force officials said. This was not due to any changes in U.S. policy; rather, weather closed in the bases. Defense officials said the Northern Watch coalition kept track of Iraqi operations in the area "by other means."

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