Iraqi minister claims 'heavy casualties' Civilian areas, hospitals reportedly hit by missiles

Baghdad death toll at 25

December 18, 1998|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- American cruise missiles hit several Iraqi factories, the house of one of Saddam Hussein's daughters and a headquarters of a military intelligence service, the country's foreign minister said yesterday.

The strikes caused "heavy casualties," said Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. He would not elaborate on the human toll from the strikes, which began about 1: 30 a.m. yesterday, subsided for the day and then resumed briefly in Baghdad last night. But Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak, giving a toll for Baghdad, said at least 25 people were killed and 75 wounded in the capital.

He said two hospitals were damaged last night. The largest hospital in Iraq, Saddam Medical City, sustained damage, and physicians in the hospital said most of the equipment was destroyed. A maternity hospital also was damaged, he said.

Al-Sahhaf told foreign journalists that a brake oil factory, a training center for mechanics, the house of Hussein's daughter, Hala, several civilian districts and a military intelligence office were hit, as were four companies.

"These are the examples to show what cheating liars the British and American regimes are," he said. "They think they can get away with their crimes by deception. They lied to the world shamelessly."

Attacks called unmerited

The Iraqi capital, home to about 6 million people, escaped major damage. Reporters saw a gaping hole in a main downtown street and the seriously damaged third floor of a vacant house. The hit there caused a water main to rupture, leaving the area without water for much of the day.

Iraqis seemed indifferent to the strikes, which punctuated the morning and evening hours with roars like sonic booms and set the night sky aglow with Iraqi anti-artillery fire.

In his public statements last night, al-Sahhaf suggested that several targets hit by American forces had been under watch by UNSCOM and did not merit an attack. He identified several sites where UNSCOM had installed monitoring cameras, including four businesses in which as many as 18 cameras were in place.

Al-Sahhaf contended that the air strikes had more to do with President Clinton's impeachment problems than Iraq's compliance with the weapons inspectors.

'Crisis of corrupt politicians'

"Dissolute, desperate liars can commit any dirty crime," he said. "We are the victims of Washington. There's no crisis in Iraq. There's a crisis of corrupt politicians in Washington trying to divert attention from their dirty life."

hTC Al-Sahhaf said eight U.N. inspection teams had conducted 427 operations. He said the violations cited by UNSCOM that led to yesterday's bombardment included Iraq's refusal to let the inspectors visit Hussein's Baath party headquarters or interview undergraduate students at Baghdad Science College.

He also chided the United States about an incident in which the Iraqis had delayed an inspection visit for 45 minutes. "You delayed us 45 minutes -- you deserve to be bombed," he said mockingly.

Iraqi Radio broadcast an address by Hussein yesterday, and Baghdad Radio said the president toured some of the sites hit by American cruise missiles.

Pub Date: 12/18/98

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