- An American missile, identified from the remains of its
serial number, was pinpointed yesterday as the cause of the explosion at
a Baghdad market on Friday night which killed at least 62 Iraqis.
- The codes on the foot-long shrapnel shard, seen by The
Independent correspondent Robert Fisk at the scene of the bombing in the
Shu'ale district, came from a weapon manufactured in Texas by Raytheon,
the world's largest producer of "smart" armaments.
- The identification of the missile as American is an embarrassing
blow to Washington and London as they fight to match their promises of
minimal civilian casualties with the reality of precision bombing.
- Both governments have suggested the Shu'ale bombing ñ
and the explosion at another Baghdad market which killed at least 14 people
last Wednesday ñ were caused by ageing Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles.
- But investigations by The Independent show that the missile
ñ thought to be either a Harm anti-radar missile or a Paveway laser-guided
bomb ñ was sold by Raytheon to the procurement arm of the US Navy.
The American military has confirmed that a navy EA-6B "Prowler"
jet, based on the USS Kittyhawk, was in action over the Iraqi capital on
Friday and fired at least one Harm missile to protect two American fighters
from a surface-to-air missile battery.
- The Pentagon and Raytheon, which last year had sales
of $16.8bn (£10.6bn), declined to comment on the serial number evidence
last night. A US Defence Department spokeswoman said: "Our investigations
are continuing. We cannot comment on serial numbers which may or may not
have been found at the scene."
- An official Washington source went further, claiming
that the shrapnel could have been planted at the scene by the Iraqi regime.
- On Saturday, Downing Street disclosed intelligence which
linked the Wednesday attack ñ and by implication Friday's killings
ñ on Iraqi missiles being fired without radar guidance and falling
back to earth.
- The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "A large number
of surface-to-air missiles have been malfunctioning and many have failed
to hit their targets and have fallen back on to Baghdad. We are not saying
definitively that these explosions were caused by Iraqi missiles but people
should approach this with due scepticism." The Anglo-American claims
were undermined by the series of 25 digits and letters on the piece of
fuselage shown to Fisk by an elderly resident of Shu'ale who lived 100
yards from the site of the 6ft crater created by the explosion.
- The numbers on the fragment ñ retrieved from the
scene and not shown to the Iraqi authorities ñ read: "30003-704ASB7492".
The letter "B" was partially obscured by scratches and may be
an "H". It was followed by a second code: "MFR 96214 09."
- An online database of suppliers maintained by the Defence
Logistics Information Service, part of the Department of Defence, showed
that the reference MFR 96214 was the identification or "cage"
number of a Raytheon plant in the city of McKinney, Texas.
- The 30003 reference refers to the Naval Air Systems Command,
the procurement agency responsible for furnishing the US Navy's air force
with its weaponry.
- The Pentagon refused to disclose which weapon was designated
by the remaining letters and numbers, although defence experts said the
information could be found within seconds from the Nato database of all
items of military hardware operated across the Alliance, "from a nuclear
bomb to a bath plug", as one put it.
- Raytheon, which also produces the Patriot anti-missile
system and the Tomahawk cruise missile, lists its Harms (High Speed Anti-Radiation
Missile) and its latest Paveway III laser-guided bombs, marketed with the
slogan "One bomb, one target", as among its most accurate weaponry.
- The company's sales description for its anti-radar missile
says: "Harm was designed with performance and quality in mind. In
actual field usage, Harm now demonstrates reliability four times better
than specification. No modern weapons arsenal is complete without Harm
in its inventory."
- Faced with apparent proof that one of its missiles had
been less accurate than specification, Raytheon was rather more coy about
the capabilities of its products. A spokeswoman at the company's headquarters
in Tucson, Arizona, said: "All questions relating to the use of our
products in the field are to be handled by the appropriate military authority."
- Defence experts said the damage caused at Shu'ale was
consistent with that of Paveway or, more probably, a Harm weapon, which
carries a warhead designed to explode into thousands of aluminium fragments
and has a range of 80km.
- Despite its manufacturer's claims, it also has a record
of unreliability when fired at a target which "disappears" if,
as the Iraqi forces do, the target's operators switch their radar signal
rapidly on and off.
- Nick Cook, of Jane's Defence Weekly, said: "The
problem with Harms is that they can be seduced away from their targets
by any sort of curious transmission. They are meant to have corrected that
but there have been problems in the past."
- During the Kosovo conflict four years ago, a farmer and
his daughter were badly injured when a missile exploded in their village.
A shard of the casing was found near by with a reference very similar to
that found in Baghdad: "30003 704AS4829 MFP 96214."
- The American navy confirmed that one of its Prowler jets,
which is used to jam enemy radar, had been over an unspecified area of
Baghdad on Friday night.
- A pool reporter on board the carrier USS Kittyhawk was
told that the Prowler squadron had fired its first Harm on Friday evening
in response to an Iraqi air defence unit which was threatening two F/A-18
Hornet jets. Lieutenant Rob Fluck, who flew on the mission, told the journalist
that the crew had not seen where their missile had landed.