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250 civilians injured in Baghdad bombing: Iraq

Iraq on Saturday denied US and British claims of successes in their invasion of the country.

world Updated: Mar 22, 2003 23:47 IST

Iraq said on Saturday 250 civilians had been wounded in bombing of Baghdad and denied US and British claims of successes in their invasion of the country.

At a news conference after a night of heavy bombing of the Iraqi capital, Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf denied British and American troops had taken the key southern port of Umm Qasr or two air bases in the western desert.

"They have not occupied anything. This is part of their silly psychological propaganda they are launching in order to mislead the media and public opinion," he said.

Sahhaf said that during last night's Baghdad raids alone, the "international gang of criminal bastards" wounded 207 civilians. The remaining casualties were caused by earlier raids.

"Until an hour ago, the total number of civilian injuries -- men, women and children -- was 207 and they are all in five Baghdad hospitals," he said.

"US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that they attacked military installations. We will show you the 207 military positions they hit lying in the hospitals."

Peppering his comments with fiery rhetoric and insults against the United States and Britain, the minister said Iraqi forces had destroyed five enemy tanks and inflicted casualties on the invading force. He denied they had captured the strategic Faw peninsula and its vital oil installations.

"They failed to break our defences in Umm Qasr. Our forces are still standing and until now the battles are fierce and we've inflicted large casualties on them," he said.

"In Faw, the British lied. Our forces are still there, and fighting is fierce."

Sahhaf also denied reports that Iraqi forces had been taken prisoners. "These losers just want anything, anything to show that they have taken prisoners, but they also kidnapped civilians in Faw, these mercenaries and cowards."

"They just want to tell the world...the tax payers, their people, that they are succeeding but they are lying."

"They are a gang of war criminals," he said of the US and British forces, making inroads into Iraq. "They are not normal humans, they are criminals by nature and by preparation.

An Iraqi military spokesman denied US reports that the commander, officers and soldiers of Iraq's 51st army division surrendered to US Marines in southern Iraq.

Sahhaf made his remarks a few hours after the United States and Britain unleashed a fearsome blitz on Baghdad.

He said Iraqi anti-aircraft defences were able to shoot down several of the missiles launched against Baghdad on Friday. "Tens of missiles were shot down by Iraqi defences and we are in the process of counting them," he added.

The Ministry of Information took reporters to hospitals in Baghdad to show them the wounded. It also invited journalists to visit Tikrit, the hometown of President Saddam Hussein, 170 kmnorth of Baghdad.

First Published: Mar 22, 2003 17:51 IST