U.S. steps up bombing pace in Iraq

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The United States has accelerated the pace of bombing missions in Iraq.

Western diplomatic sources said the U.S. military has intensified the targeting of air defense assets to ensure minimum threat to an allied air attack on Baghdad that is expected to signal the start of a war to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The sources said the focus is to destroy Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries and radar in southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border.

U.S. fighter-jets struck two Iraqi anti-aircraft radars near the Kuwaiti border on late Monday, Middle East Newsline reported. U.S. Central Command said the target was an Iraqi mobile radar facility near Al Amarah, about 250 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.

It was the second strike this year by U.S. warplanes to enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. On Saturday, U.S. military aircraft targeted Iraqi air defense communications facilities. The diplomatic sources said the rate of attacks on Iraqi installations has been increased over the last two months.

The U.S. military is pouring thousands of troops into Kuwait and preparing for an exercise later this month. U.S. officials said Washington will also increase the number of aircraft and warships in the Gulf region.

"I hope that force will not have to be used," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday. "But in the meantime, we'll keep flowing forces."

Rumsfeld also said the Pentagon is requesting an increase for special operations forces in the fiscal 2004 budget. He cited equipment losses by the Special Operations Command in Afghanistan and plans to increase the number of commandos assigned to the unit's aviation regiment. The regiment specializes in flying combat forces behind enemy lines.

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