Monday, April 06, 1992

Iran Strafes Rebels in Iraq; Jet Downed

Iran Strafes Rebels in Iraq; Jet Downed
By ERIC SCHMITT

New York Times
April 6, 1992

Iranian jets bombed an Iranian rebel base in Iraq today in the most serious attack by Iran since a cease-fire ended fighting between the two countries in 1988.

Iraq said that its artillery had shot down one of eight Iranian F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers and that the pilot and navigator had been captured. A senior Pentagon official monitoring intelligence reports confirmed the Iranian attack and the loss of one plane, but could not confirm any other details.

The official Iranian press agency said the raid was in response to an attack on Saturday by guerrillas of the People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian rebel group, on two Kurdish settlements in Iran where "several people were killed, injured and kidnapped." Conflict With Hard-Liners

Iraq's state-operated Baghdad radio immediately denounced the raid, and Iranian rebel leaders in Iraq accused President Hashemi Rafsanjani of trying to whip up public support before Iranian elections on Friday.

Mr. Rafsanjani is seeking to oust fundamentalists in Parliament who oppose his efforts to open the country to the West and institute a free-market economy.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lieut. Col. Kerry Gershaneck of the Marines, said there were no indications that Iraq had ordered aircraft to intercept the Iranian fighter jets. Under terms of the cease-fire imposed by the American-led allies after Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf war last year, Baghdad may not fly its fixed-wing aircraft.

Although much of its military was destroyed in the gulf war, Iraq still has surface-to-air missiles and formidable batteries of anti-aircraft guns. Journalists Get a Tour

The rebels said the attack had killed a technician and wounded several others when the jets fired rockets and showered cluster bombs on the Ashraf base, 50 miles inside Iraq and 40 miles north of Baghdad, The Associated Press reported.

Iraqi and rebel anti-aircraft gunners both said they had downed the F-4, which crashed in an irrigation channel nine miles from the base. The rebels showed foreign journalists bomb damage at Ashraf and the still-burning wreckage of the F-4 Phantom, its wings perforated by bullets, Reuters reported.

The air strike was the first significant clash involving the two countries since April 1991, when Iran's Revolutionary Guards crossed the border during the Shiite and Kurdish rebellions after the Persian Gulf war and fought Iraqi troops and Iranian rebels.

In retaliation for the air raid, exiled opponents of the Iranian Government invaded Iranian diplomatic missions in New York, Ottawa and seven nations of Western Europe today, seizing hostages and wrecking offices in apparently coordinated attacks.

Iran and Iraq have never formally ended their eight-year war, which left an estimated one million people dead, and have engaged in an increasingly strident propaganda war. Teheran has accused President Saddam Hussein of Iraq of backing the Iranian rebels, while Baghdad has criticized Iran for supporting Shiite Muslim and Kurdish insurgencies in Iraq.

Baghdad radio today warned of the "serious consequences" of the raid, and the Iraqi News Agency said Mr. Hussein met with his senior military commanders after the air strike.

But an Iranian military official who requested anonymity said Iran "had succeeded in showing its enemies" that no target was out of reach. "Baghdad is not so far," said the official. "The army may once in a while be put in a position where it has to show its teeth."

The Iranians have about 60 American-made F-4 fighter-bombers, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, but only about 20 are believed to be in working order. The rest have been grounded because of a lack of spare parts, which the United States cut off in 1979.

Iranian officials have frequently stated their desire to see Mr. Hussein replaced by a "democratically elected government." This policy, they say, legitimizes Iran's financial and logistical support for the Shiites and for the new Islamic Party of Kurdistan, which has an office in Teheran.

Iranian Warplanes Strike Rebel Base Inside Iraq

F-4 Phantom Shot Down in Morning Raid
The Washington Post
April 6, 1992
Reuter
By Peter Smerdon

ASHRAF BASE, Iraq, April 5— Iranian planes bombed an Iranian opposition base in the Iraqi desert today in their first airborne incursion into Iraq since a 1988 cease-fire between the two Persian Gulf states.

Antiaircraft batteries shot down one plane, and the exiled Iranian rebel group, the People’s Mojahedin, said it captured two Iranian crewmen.

The Mojahedin showed foreign journalists bomb damage at Ashraf base, about 60 miles from Baghdad and the same distance from Iran’s border, and the still-burning wreckage of the downed P4 Phantom, its wings perforated by bullets.

Iran said its planes had attacked in response to a raid by the rebels on two border villages Saturday evening.

Officers of the rebel group said a dozen Iranian F-4 Phantoms and F-5s attacked this morning in six waves, dropping bombs, firing rockets and strafing roads and vehicles.
One rebel was reported killed in the raid, and a spokesman said five more were slightly injured.

The Mojahedin said the Phantom’s pilot and navigator were captured after ejecting from their plane, which smashed into a dirt embankment nine miles from the base.
An Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iraqi antiaircraft gunners were responsible for shooting down the plane.

“Iraq warns the reckless Iranian regime of the consequences of this impudent aggressive act and holds it fully responsible for the grave results,” said the spokesman, adding that Baghdad had sent a letter of protest to the United Nations.

The official Iraqi News Agency said President Saddam Hussein visited the Iraqi air force headquarters after the raid, but the agency gave no details.

Iraq flew more than 80 of its own jet fighters to Iran in January 1991, shortly after the start of the Persian Gulf War, but it was not clear whether any of those jets were used in today’s Iranian raid.

Iran’s official news agency said the rebels had killed, wounded or kidnapped several Iranians Saturday evening in attacks on two villages near the border with Iraq.