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2 GIs Hurt in 1st Gulf Skirmish

January 23, 1991|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RIYADH — Two American soldiers were slightly wounded and six Iraqi soldiers were taken prisoner in the first small-arms skirmish of this week-old war, while American officials denied today that they had bombed a baby food factory in Baghdad.

A U.S. military spokesman said today that the skirmish took place late last night inside the Saudi Arabian border and that, as has been the case for the last several days, it occurred as there was intermittent artillery fire on the front lines.

Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Scott said today that both wounded soldiers were treated and returned to duty.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis claimed today that a baby food factory had been bombed in Baghdad, an accusation that was strongly denied at an afternoon press briefing.

"I have heard that report, and I can assure you that targeting is limited to strictly military targets," said Scott. Later, military officials said the building hit was surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards and was suspected of being a chemical weapons factory.

Meanwhile, skies cleared over Iraq and Kuwait for the first time since Sunday, allowing allied jets to pound Iraqi positions. The sortie figure, which has become a benchmark for the U.S. military, stands at more than 12,000. Scott said that no airplanes were lost in combat in the last 24 hours but that a Marine Harrier jet and Army Cobra helicopter did crash in noncombat accidents. The Harrier pilot was killed; there were no injuries in the chopper crash. The two aircraft crashes bring to 14 the number lost since fighting began, nine of them in combat.

Scott said Operation Desert Storm "remains on track" with U.S. pilots flying 85% of the missions.

Meanwhile, Iraq said today that it fired one of its Scud missiles into a Tel Aviv area "for the sake of Palestine" and announced that it is suspending the sale of gasoline. British Maj. Gen. Alex Harley, quoted by the Associated Press, said the allied bombings had reduced Iraq's oil refining capacity by half.

The reference by Iraq to Palestine comes as no surprise. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has repeatedly tried to link a settlement of his takeover of Kuwait with a solution to the Palestinian problem by the withdrawal of the Israelis from occupied lands.

Meanwhile, the Iranian News Agency today said allied airplanes were hammering the southern Iraqi port of Basra, the headquarters for the Kuwaiti theater. The agency said that the sound of the bombings could be heard 25 miles away.

Also today, Iraqi Radio accused the leaders of the United States, France and Great Britain of deliberately ordering the attacks on civilian targets, saying the bombings had killed a number of innocent people throughout the country.

"It is very clear that the criminal attacks waged by the U.S. aggressors and their British, French, Zionist and other allies are criminal and vengeful acts," the radio said.

The radio also broadcast a statement in which it said the reason the Scud missile was able to land in Israel was because "the superior creativity of the Iraqi mind was a component in the manufacture of these missiles."

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