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Air attack on oil plant claims four

Baghdad Dec. 1 (Reuters): Western warplanes hit an oil company office block in Basra in southern Iraq today, killing four people and wounding 27, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

US officials confirmed an attack occurred but said coalition planes, which police two no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq, hit an Iraqi air defence facility in response to Iraqi artillery fire.

“US and British warplanes raided the Southern Oil Company in Basra. Four people were martyred and several wounded during the raid,” one resident, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone.

An official from the company said the warplanes targeted administrative offices. “The Southern Oil Company building itself was hit and some staff were killed,” another SOC employee said by telephone. “No oil facilities were hit.”

An Iraqi military spokesman said in addition to the four dead, 27 people were wounded in the attack. The spokesman said the planes also attacked two other civilian targets in the south.

He confirmed Iraqi air defence units had fired on the planes. In a statement, the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said coalition aircraft targeted Iraqi air defence facilities near Basra.

It said the incident in the southern no-fly zone occurred “after Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft in the Northern No-Fly Zone”. It said civilians and civilian facilities were not targeted.

The Iraqi Southern Oil Company supervises Iraq’s oil exports under the oil-for-food deal with the UN.

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