British Warplanes Bomb Nw Iraq


British warplanes yesterday bombed vehicles and buildings in the northwestern Iraqi town of Karabila, close to the Syrian border.

In what was considered a rare departure from operations in the south of the country, RAF G-4 Tornado jets used laser-guided bombs and missiles in a joint operation with the United States Air Force.

In yesterday’s raids, RAF Tornadoes were deployed alongside US F-16 jets and Super Cobra helicopters.

Operation Spear is the latest US offensive in Al-Anbar province.

Around 1,000 US and puppet Iraqi troops are targeting what they claim are insurgent hide-outs in the offensive.

The operation has seen heavy fighting in Karabila and other areas around the city of Qaim.

The US military said three fighters were killed in a gun battle outside a mosque in Karabila, after claiming on Saturday that it had killed about 50 insurgents since the start of the offensive last Friday.

Ten Iraqi civilians, including two women, were wounded in the crossfire.

A US military statement said that US marines and Iraqi soldiers ‘were unaware of civilians being located in the homes’.

There was no independent confirmation of casualties in the remote region.

The military claimed soldiers found a bomb factory in Karabila with devices used to make the roadside bombs and car bombs.

Meanwhile, in a further effort to restrict the movement of resistance fighters operating in Anbar, another US-Iraqi force of about 1,000 men has been concentrated on an area around Lake Tharthar, northwest of Baghdad, as part of Operation Khanjar (Dagger).

The lake separates Anbar from Salaheddin province, another predominantly Sunni Arab province, where resistance is active.

‘Operation Khanjar is focused on locating hidden weapons caches and denying insurgents sanctuary in the area that is a suspected insurgent and terrorist logistical hub,’ the US military said.

• Meanwhile in Iran, supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has demanded an apology from US President George W Bush who had attacked the Iranian presidential elections as undemocratic.

Khamenei declared that Iranians had dealt a major defeat to the ‘lies and deceit’ of Bush by turning out en masse to vote in a higher than expected 65 per cent turn-out.

‘With your solid, collective and glorious presence, once again you defused the conspiracy of your enemy,’ Khamenei said in a message read out by a state television announcer.

A government official added: ‘This run-off is proof that we don’t tamper with election results, we don’t suppress the voice of the people, and we don’t bow to foreign interests.

‘Iran is democratic. What is happening in Iran proves it.’

Early Saturday figures had showed 32 million people voted.