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Saddam Declares Holy War Against US - 2001-02-17

Iraq is threatening to retaliate for the U.S. and British bombing raids that it says killed two civilians and wounded more than 20 others. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has declared a holy war against the United States.

Iraq's state-run television broadcast President Saddam Hussein's emergency session with the country's Revolutionary Command Council following Friday's air raids. The Iraqi leader vowed not to succumb to what he called criminal American aggression.

In his comments, President Saddam did not mention Britain, saying the strikes were part of a wider American and Zionist strategy that cannot force Iraq to give up its rights. He called the bombing a prelude to holy war and urged Arabs everywhere to unite against the aggression.

Iraq's media Saturday heaped fiery condemnation on the United States. The official Qadissiya newspaper said in a front-page editorial that the Americans' and Britons' new, savage crime would not pass unpunished and without decisive retaliation.

The newspaper called President George W. Bush the son of a viper and promised to teach him a lesson that he will not forget. President Bush's father, George Bush, led the 1991 Gulf War coalition against Iraq that ended its six-month occupation of Kuwait.

The government newspaper al-Jumhouriya Saturday described the attack as a cowardly act and another failing action by the tyrant rulers of the criminal American administration. It said the strikes were a breach of international law and the United Nations Security Council charter.

Iraqi television showed images of an 18-year-old woman and a man, believed to be in his 30s, who it said died in the attack. It also broadcast pictures from Iraqi hospitals of children with bandaged legs and feet receiving treatment for their wounds.

Iraqi Health Minister Omed Medhat Mubarak said women, children and the elderly were among those injured. He added that some of them were in critical condition.

The Pentagon says the raids targetted radar and command centers that control Iraqi air defenses farther south in the western patrolled no-fly zone.

President Bush described the attacks as routine and necessary to enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq. He warned that the U.S. will take what he called "appropriate action" if President Saddam develops weapons of mass destruction.

The raid is believed to have been the single biggest air strike against Iraq since the 1998 Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign that followed Baghdad's refusal to allow United Nations arms inspectors into selected areas.

Iraqi citizens said the missiles hit an agricultural, rural region but Washington maintains that Baghdad places military installation in civilian areas, a charge that the Iraqi leadership denies.