U N I T E D N A T I O N S: Supporting Iraqi casualty reports
from two stray missiles last week, a U.N. report says the missiles killed
17 people, including 10 children, in southern Iraq. The report, obtained
by The Associated Press on Thursday, did not say who fired the missiles
that landed in the poor al-Jumhuriya neighborhood in the port city of Basra
and in the village of Abu Khasib, 16 miles to the south, on Jan. 25. The
Pentagon acknowledged that a U.S. missile fired at air defense targets
near Basra missed by miles and struck the al-Jumhuriya residential area.
But there has been no claim of responsibility for the missile strike on
Abu Khasib, which is also called Abu Fullous.
Daily Strikes: American and British planes patrolling the no-fly
zones in northern and southern Iraq have been carrying out almost daily
missile strikes on the country=92s extensive air defenses since Iraq began
targeting allied aircraft with radar, and sometimes firing on them. Immediately
after the two missile strikes, Iraq said at least 11 people were killed
and 59 people were wounded. But according to the report from Hans von Sponeck,
the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, the toll was higher: 17 deaths,
about 100 injuries and 45 houses damaged or destroyed. Von Sponeck visited
the site of both attacks on Jan. 27 and talked to local government officials
and relief agencies. His report was sent to the Security Counci's acting
president, Canada's deputy U.N. ambassador Michel Duval, on Monday by Benon
Sevan, the executive director of the U.N.'s Iraq program.
Sadness Rather Than Aggression: Despite some demonstrations against
the United States in al-Jumhuriya during the U.N. team's visit, the human
climate was one of sadness rather than aggressiveness, the report said.
The same atmosphere prevailed in Abu Khasib, where Muslim ceremonies were
under way during the team's visit, it said. Eyewitnesses in al-Jumhuriya
told Von Sponeck and other U.N. officials that the missile killed one woman
and five children, according to the report. Von Sponeck was told that 64
people were injured and 30 were still hospitalized during the U.N. visit,
the report said. When the missile struck on a Monday morning, most men
were away from the neighborhood, which the report said was a low-income
area where all streets were covered in garbage and some were flooded with
Assessing the Damage: The U.N. team visiting the area verified
that seven houses had been completely destroyed and a further 27 houses
sustained damage. The damage was caused by both direct impact and the blast
effect to the missile, it said. In Abu Khasib, a village of about 400 houses,
five women and five children died as a result of the missile strike and
30 people were injured, the report said. At the time the team was leaving
this rural community, the body of an 11th victim was brought back to the
village from the hospital where the person had died,it said. The U.N. team
reported that the physical damage in Abu Khasib was less severe than in
al-Jumhuriya, with one collapsed house and 10 others suffering varying
degrees of damage. In another development Thursday, chief U.N. weapons
inspector Richard Butler said he was unlikely to remain at his post beyond
June 30 when his contract expires.
The former Australian diplomat, who became a focus of controversy in
the arms inspection dispute with Iraq, also said he was not seeking a spot
on a new panel that will make recommendations on Iraq's disarmament. Speaking
briefly as he left U.N. headquarters, Butler defended the work of the U.N.
Special Commission, known as UNSCOM, saying it has accurately documented
Iraqs efforts to make and conceal weapons of mass destruction. Russia and
China have accused Butler and the commission of provoking U.S. and British
airstrikes against Iraq in December by reporting that Baghdad had failed
to live up to its pledge to cooperate with weapons inspectors. After the
attacks, Iraq banned UNSCOM from returning.
Edith M. Lederer