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Iraq Accuses US of Targeting Civilians - 2003-03-21

At a news conference Friday in Baghdad, Iraq's information minister accused President Bush of targeting civilian locations in Baghdad.

Calling President Bush and members of his administration "villains," Iraq's information minister displayed photographs of what he said were civilian casualties as the result of recent missile and bombing raids in Baghdad.

Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf also said President Saddam Hussein and his family are safe following U.S. attacks overnight, that saw the destruction of one of the key presidential palaces in Baghdad and the residence of one of President Saddam Hussein's sons.

Mr. al-Sahhaf called Mr. Bush and his administration "villains." "They targeted the residence of the family of President Saddam Hussein," he said. "They targeted, the house of his family but they are safe, they are safe. This is the level, this is the real reputation of this gang. This is real level and reputation of those criminals. You consider them superpowers? Well, this is a disgrace. This is a complete disgrace. They are a superpower of villains."

The information minister also disputed a British claim that two coalition helicopters that crashed were not brought down by Iraqi fire. Mr. al-Sahhaf said Iraqi forces shot down both helicopters. "We have destroyed two of their helicopters and we announced it yesterday," said Iraq's Information Minister. "They said no, one had crashed and American warplanes had destroyed it not to be in the hands of the Iraqis. Well, this is silly."

Mr. al-Sahhaf also denied that any Iraqi soldiers have surrendered despite television accounts of what appear to be Iraqi soldiers giving themselves up.