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Iran Fires Missile at Baghdad, Reports Advance Toward Basra

January 21, 1987|From Reuters

MANAMA, Bahrain — Missile and air strikes killed more civilians in the Persian Gulf War on Tuesday as Iran reported a further advance toward the key Iraqi city of Basra on the southern battlefront.

Iran fired a surface-to-surface missile into the Iraqi capital of Baghdad before dawn, and an Iraqi military spokesman said a number of civilians were killed or wounded and houses and shops damaged. Diplomats in Baghdad, however, reported that the missile exploded in an empty field.

The missile, believed to be a Soviet-made Scud-B, was the fifth to hit the Iraqi capital in 10 days in a flare-up of the air war coinciding with the Iranian offensive toward Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

Several Cities Raided

Iraq launched air strikes against a number of Iranian cities within two hours of the missile's impact.

Among the targets listed by the Iraqis were Qom, Hamadan, Tabriz, Esfahan, Shahabad and Khorramabad. All those sites have been repeatedly bombed over the last several days in what Iraqi military spokesmen termed a retaliation for the shelling of Basra and missile attacks on Baghdad.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported eight people wounded in Esfahan, south of Tehran, but it said anti-aircraft fire drove the raiding planes away from other centers.

Seven More Killed

Basra again came under heavy Iranian artillery fire overnight and during the day that killed seven people and wounded 93, according to the Iraqi high command. The number of civilian casualties there from Iranian shelling now stands at more than 600 dead and wounded since Iran's current offensive began 11 days ago.

In ground fighting, Iran reported further advances in its Karbala 5 offensive, which was launched on the southern war front with Basra as its apparent objective. The Iranians said troops who crossed the Jasim River six miles east of Basra two nights ago pushed forward again in heavy fighting Monday night.

However, diplomatic and military observers in Baghdad said the situation on the ground appeared fairly static Tuesday, with the Iranians gaining no more territory and the Iraqis failing to push them back.

In Washington, chief Pentagon spokesman Robert B. Sims dismissed reports that the Iranians are on the verge of capturing Basra.

"Contrary to some reports and some claims," Sims said at a news briefing, "I have seen nothing to indicate that Basra is in imminent danger of falling."

He said Iranian shelling of Basra "has been intense at times in the past few weeks" but that Iranian troops now appear to have encountered an ammunition shortage and "the situation has been relatively stable" for the last four days.

The Iranians have massed about 200,000 troops in the Basra sector, and about 60,000 have been involved in heavy fighting against a force of about 200,000 Iraqis, Sims said.

He estimated Iranian casualties at between 40,000 and 50,000, about half of whom he estimated were killed. Iraqi casualties have been between 10,000 and 20,000, he said, with fewer than 10,000 estimated killed.

"It just continues to be a very terrible situation in which neither side seems to have anything to gain by continuing the fighting," the Pentagon spokesman said.

Asked about TOW anti-tank missiles and Hawk anti-aircraft missiles sold to Iran by the Reagan Administration, Sims said, "We've seen no indication these have been employed" in the current Iranian offensive, "and if they have, they have had no effect."

Times staff writer Gaylord Shaw in Washington contributed to this report.

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