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Iran, Iraq Strike Cities, Clash in South

March 17, 1985|From Reuters

MANAMA, Bahrain — Iran and Iraq reported fierce fighting Saturday on their southern war front and attacks on each other's cities despite a U.N. call to halt strikes on civilian targets.

Iraq said its forces foiled Iranian attempts to cross the strategically important Tigris River in the southern Iraqi marshlands in what it described as the fiercest battles yet fought in the 4 1/2-year-old war.

Iraq said its warplanes raided nine Iranian towns or cities. The official Iranian news agency said more than 100 people were killed, including at least 53 in the western town of Karand-e Gharb, about 38 miles from the Iraqi border.

Claims on Tigris

Iran said its forces south of the Iraqi city of Amarah were now controlling the Hur region between the Tigris River and the border. But Baghdad radio said counterattacking Iraqi forces were pushing back what it called remnants of Iranian troops, killing or wounding hundreds of them.

In the marshlands, where the Iranians attacked last Monday, Iran said more than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in the past 24 hours. The Iranian news agency said more than 3,000 Iraqis were killed and 1,000 captured in the past five days and 164 tanks and armored troop carriers were destroyed.

An Iraqi high command communique said the Iranians were encountered at the banks of the Tigris by three Iraqi divisions, including the presidential guard, and nine brigades, in addition to units of the paramilitary popular army.

The communique said Iraqi helicopters destroyed two bridges constructed by the Iranians, but it did not say where.

Iran said it shelled the southern Iraqi port of Basra, where residents reported more than 80 people killed or wounded overnight when shells fell on the city at a rate of 20 per minute. Iran said it also bombed two northern Iraqi towns, one 43 miles south of the Turkish border and the other 37 miles west of the Iranian border.

Iran, reporting the Iraqi air attacks, said Iraqi planes also bombed Saqqez, in the heart of Iran's mountainous Kurdish region, killing 30 people and wounding 90.

Other Iraqi raids penetrated Iran as far as Rasht, near the Caspian Sea and about 210 miles from Iraq, and Tabriz, in the extreme northwest, the Iranian news agency said.

Iraq said its planes shot down three Iranian F-5 fighters and hit "selected targets" in, among other places, Esfahan, Tabriz, Rasht, Gilan-e Garb, Saqqez, Sanandaj and Sar-e Pol-e Zahab.

Iran also said it fired a ground-launched missile into Baghdad on Saturday. This was denied by an official spokesman in Baghdad, who said an explosion on the banks of the Tigris was caused by a car bomb.

Iraq has similarly dismissed earlier Iranian reports of missile attacks on Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. Iran has not specified the type of missile it says its forces are using.

U.N. Urges Halt

The U.N. Security Council on Friday night called on the two countries, at war since September, 1980, to cease their attacks on civilian targets as a step toward an end to hostilities.

However, Iran on Saturday threatened to escalate the attacks if Iraq continues to hit Iranian cities. Baghdad says it will not stop fighting until Tehran responds to calls for peace. Iran says there can be no peace with the present Iraqi leadership.

India, current chairman of the Nonaligned Movement, which includes both Iran and Iraq, said it is sending envoys to Baghdad and Tehran today to discuss concrete measures to end the war.

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