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Iraqi News Service Claims 23 Killed by Western Airstrikes

Aired June 20, 2001 - 10:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our other story -- top story coming out of Iraq, where the Iraqi government -- Iraqi News Service making claims that 23 people were killed by Western airstrikes earlier today or yesterday.

For the latest on that, let's go to Jane Arraf -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, Iraq says these 23 people were actually killed on a soccer field. It says U.S. and British planes patrolling the northern no-fly zones near the northern town of Mosul, dropped bombs killing 23 people and wounding 11. Now, the U.S. says it had nothing to do with it.

A military spokesman for Operation Northern Watch, which patrols those zones, says they did fly over today and yesterday, but the last time they dropped bombs was June 14. He will not comment on whether that ordnance could have exploded, killing those people. Something happened. We're just not quite sure what exactly it was yet -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Jane Arraf in Baghdad, thank you.

As you mentioned, the U.S. government saying that those airstrikes did not take place, that no bombs were dropped by Western forces.

For more on this, let's go back to the White House and Kelly Wallace -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Daryn -- U.S. officials saying Iraqi claims that U.S./British airstrikes killed some 23 soccer players are -- quote -- "absolutely false" -- a U.S. official telling us this, just as Jane just reported, that while U.S. and British planes were on -- quote -- "routine patrol over the northern no-fly zone," and while they did take some anti-aircraft fire, they -- quote -- "did not engage," meaning they dropped no ordnance, did not respond in any way, and then they returned safely to their bases, according to this official.

Also, the British are speaking out about this as well: a Ministry of Defense spokesman saying -- quote -- "This is a lot of rubbish" -- this official saying that -- quote -- "Saddam" -- meaning Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader -- "regularly claims that we have killed civilians or destroyed civilian infrastructure on days when we have not dropped ordnance and even when we have not flown patrols over the northern no-fly zone" -- so U.S. and British officials again saying this absolutely not true.

The British are calling this Iraqi propaganda -- again, though, the word from the White House here: Absolutely nothing that the Iraqis are claiming took place today -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Kelly Wallace at the White House -- Kelly, thank you very much.

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