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Iraq: Air Strike Kills At Least 12 In Residential Area


Baghdad, 26 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi officials say an air strike today in a residential area of Baghdad killed at least 12 people. Correspondents at the scene and witnesses report that 14 or 15 people were killed in two explosions. U.S. and British forces have been bombing targets in Baghdad with warplanes and cruise missiles since the start of the war on 20 March.

News agencies quote Iraqi officials as saying two cruise missiles struck the neighborhood of al-Shaab, where there are homes and shops. A civil-defense director in the district said the missiles crashed into a building occupied by an auto mechanic's garage on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. Several buildings were burning after the explosions.

The International Federation of Journalists is condemning the overnight bombing of the Iraqi television building by U.S.-led forces. Aidan White, general secretary for the group, said today that the attack, which took the state television station off the air for 45 minutes, was "part of the psychological war in which journalists and media staff are the victims."

The television station was bombed one day after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appeared on television. The station also showed footage of U.S. prisoners of war and apparently dead coalition soldiers.

White called the attack a "desperate" move made because "the democratic world" did not like what was broadcast on the station.

Amnesty International has warned that the bombing of the television station may have been a breach of the Geneva conventions because it is a "civilian object."

And in several countries today, protests against the war led to clashes with police. Several thousand students marched in Sydney, Australia. Eighteen people were arrested after demonstrators pelted police with bottles, eggs, fireworks, and plastic chairs.

The Australian government has sent 2,000 troops to the war. The decision has sparked mass protests throughout the country, but all the protests had been peaceful until today.

Riot police also scuffled with students in South Korea's capital Seoul. Thirty demonstrators were arrested after trying to barge into the U.S. Embassy. The demonstrators unfurled a banner reading, "Stop the War. No Bush," and tried to set fire to a U.S. flag.

In Indonesia's capital Jakarta, demonstrators set fire to an effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush during a rally involving about 300 people outside the U.S. Embassy.

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