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U.S. avoids Baghdad's electrical system

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By Robert Burns

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March 22, 2003  |  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unlike the first Gulf War, U.S. airstrikes on Baghdad are not knocking out electrical power or targeting other infrastructure relied upon by civilians, officials said Saturday.

Before the war began last week, there was widespread speculation the Air Force would use an "e-bomb" on the Iraqi capital. The weapon, whose existence has not been officially confirmed, reportedly creates a pulse of microwaves powerful enough to fry computers, blind radar and trigger crippling power outages.

Asked about the "e-bomb" at a March 5 Pentagon news conference, the general running the war, Tommy Franks, said: "I can't talk to you about that because I don't know anything about it."

In the 1991 war, the United States turned out the lights in Baghdad with missiles carrying a special carbon filament designed to short out the electrical system. In the 1999 U.S.-led war against Yugoslavia, a similar effect was achieved with a "blackout bomb" that short-circuited electrical transformers in Belgrade without destroying the power-generation system.


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Many had assumed the U.S. military would plunge Baghdad into darkness again. Officials, however, said Saturday it was never their intention to damage elements of the civilian infrastructure in Baghdad if Iraq's military communications could be disabled by other means.

British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon made the point after Friday night's heavy air attacks.

"The lights stayed on in Baghdad, but the instruments of tyranny are collapsing," Hoon said.

Using precision-guided bombs, the air campaign that escalated Friday struck key parts of the military command and control system. That achieved the desired effect of degrading Saddam Hussein's ability to direct his forces, officials said.

A central theme of the attack on Iraq is that it is aimed only at the government -- not the citizens of Iraq. Thus the bombing was carefully designed to spare civilians and the services they rely upon.

To reinforce that message the U.S. military has dropped millions of leaflets across Iraq. On Saturday, Franks' headquarters said more than a million leaflets dropped over population centers on Friday told Iraqi civilians that the invading forces are targeting the Iraqi military, not civilians.


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