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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Jets Launch Missiles at Iraqi Sites

WASHINGTON -- For the second time in three days, a U.S. F-16 pilot fired a missile at an Iraqi antiaircraft site, the Pentagon said Monday.


The latest incident occurred early Monday about 40 kilometers from where the earlier firing took place.


In a brief statement, the Pentagon said, "The pilot received an indication that his aircraft was being targeted by an Iraqi mobile surface-to-air missile system."


The Pentagon said the pilot, assigned to the 4404th Wing participating in patrol of the southern Iraq "no-fly" zone, returned safely to his base.


White House spokesman Mike McCurry said U.S. President Bill Clinton was briefed on the incident and analysts were trying to "determine why we've had a second incident."


A Pentagon review of the missile firing on Saturday found there apparently was no attempt to target the plane.


The pilot's cockpit instruments had indicated he was being targeted Saturday by Iraqi radar, and under the rules of engagement he was allowed to respond to what he perceived as a hostile act, the Pentagon said.


"Subsequent analysis did not support the initial indications of radar activity," the Pentagon said in a statement Sunday. It did not say what damage was done by the missile, noting that it was still being assessed.


A Pentagon military source, asked how the confusion occurred, said the pilot did hear an auditory signal indicating the F-16 had been locked onto, but apparently it was a false reading, later analysis showed. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.


The Pentagon's admission calmed concerns that a new outbreak of hostilities was possible as the U.S. elections approached.


Iraq denied that any incident took place. Its official news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying, "Fabricating this false report is part of American-style electioneering" -- a reference to the U.S. presidential elections on Tuesday.


The F-16 returned safely to base in Saudi Arabia after the incident at near the 32nd parallel southeast of Kut Al Hayy, in the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, the Pentagon said.


Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the United States and its allies have maintained a no-fly zone over southern Iraq.


The U.S. missile firings were the first of their kind since Sept. 4, when Iraqi forces confronted U.S. flyers twice as they began patrols over an expanded no-fly zone that Washington unilaterally declared the day before.


An Iraqi air defense radar site illuminated an Air Force F-16 with its signal. The warplane responded with an anti-radar missile, and the site went silent, Defense Secretary William Perry said at the time.