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WAR WITH IRAQ

Two Errant Missiles Fall in Turkey

Both apparently came from U.S. jets headed to Iraq. One explodes but no one is hurt.

March 24, 2003|Richard Boudreaux | Times Staff Writer

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Two missiles, apparently unleashed from U.S. warplanes by mistake, fell Sunday near separate villages in Turkey along a flight corridor to Iraq, Turkish officials said.

No injuries were reported, but the officials said one of the missiles exploded, leaving a flaming crater in a field.

Turkish military authorities sealed off both sites to investigate the incidents, which came a day after American aircraft began crossing Turkish airspace to strike Iraq. Turkey's cooperation with the U.S. war effort, although minimal and belated, is unpopular among its people, and the fallen missiles were almost certain to arouse public protest.

Officials in Iran, meanwhile, said that rockets fired by U.S. and Iraqi forces had fallen inside their country since the war began but did not appear to have been aimed deliberately at Iran, Reuters reported. It said two Iranians have been injured.

The missiles that fell in Turkey hit around nightfall, two hours and about 90 miles apart in Urfa province, as planes roared overhead, according to Turkish officials. Urfa, in southeastern Turkey, lies along an air corridor approved for overflights by F-18 fighter jets based on aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.

U.S. and Turkish officials said there was no confirmation that the missiles had come from American aircraft. The Pentagon had no comment on the matter Sunday.

But a Western diplomat in Ankara, the Turkish capital, said the missiles were not fired from Iraq. He said they probably fell from U.S. warplanes because they were strapped on incorrectly, or they could have been dislodged by Iraqi fire over Iraq and then fallen over Turkey as the planes flew back to base.

The governor of Urfa, Sukru Kocatepe, said the first missile struck less than a mile from the village of Ozveren about 5:30 p.m. Turkish television reports said it left a hole about 13 feet wide and three feet deep. Ozveren, part of the municipality of Birecik, is 214 miles west of the Iraqi border.

About two hours later, a metal object more than four feet long fell from a plane near the village of Ayakli, 12 miles south of the town of Viransehir and 124 miles from the Iraqi border, Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency reported.

The mayor of Viransehir, Emrullah Cin, said in a telephone interview that the object was an unexploded missile.

*

Times special correspondent Amberin Zaman contributed to this report from Ankara.

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