On Wednesday, March 19, 2003, the war in Iraq opened with two stunning Allied air strikes, one on a hideaway in southern Baghdad used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the other on the northern city of Mosul.

However, eight hours before the cruise missiles hit Mosul, strange lights were reported in the As-Zab as- Shagir
(Little Zab river valley), located about 72 kilometers (45 miles) west of Kirkuk and 88 kilometers (55 miles) south of Irbil.

Kurdish militia known as Peshmirga (Kurdish for Those who are ready to die--J.T.), who were on patrol in the mountains east of the Little Zab valley, spotted unusual flashing lights over the region. "At nightfall (6:30 p.m. Irbil time) the Kurdish fighters at the Dolabakra checkpoint looked down toward the lights of Kirkuk, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away."

Some Kurds said the lights might be UFOs. Others insisted that,

"a lightning storm on the (western) horizon" had "illuminated the sky. Was it the start of bombing? No one was certain."

"An Iraqi anti-aircraft battery--perhaps six miles (10 kilometers) away--opened fire."  (Editor's Comment: At a high-flying Allied spy plane?)

The Little Zab River valley has been the subject of much speculation since a retired U.S. military man spoke on The Art Bell Show last December (2002) and claimed that a saucer had crash-landed in Iraq either during the first Gulf War in 1991 or Operation Desert Fox in 1998. Persistent rumors in Irbil province claimed that Saddam Hussein had granted the aliens sanctuary in Iraq. The aliens were said to be staying at an underground base at Zarzi in the upper valley or at the millenia-old citadel at Qalaat-e-Julundi, located on a lofty, easily-defended promontory on a bend in the Little Zab River.

"Then at about 9 p.m., a series of Iraqi flares was fired. Red tracer bullets" lit up the sky east of Dolabakra. "Rain returned. All was calm again."

"At a Peshmirga militia base three miles (5 kilometers) toward Irbil, the local (Kurdish) commander, Yusaf Hassam Kader, held a midnight meeting with top aides." The militiamen wondered aloud if the U.S. Air Force had raided Zarzi, but nobody really knew what was going on or who the Iraqis had been shooting at.

"'We will wait for the Americans,'" Kader said.

"About four hours later (4:30 a.m., Thursday, March 20, 2003)--shortly before dawn--Kurdish radio reported air strikes in Mosul, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Irbil."

According to UFO Roundup's Middle East correspondents, Al-Shabab Television in Iraq (which, by the way, is owned by Saddam's son, Uday - J.T.) covered the bombing raids in the north, which, they claimed, were carried out by USAF B-52 bombers. However, neither Zarzi nor Qalaat-e-Julundi was specifically mentioned in the broadcast.

Saddam has a heavy concentration of military forces in Irbil province, including the Iraqi Army's 5th Corps headquarters, 7th Infantry Division, the al-Abed Infantry Division, 1st Mechanized Infantry Division and 5th Mechanized Infantry Division.

(See the St. Paul, Minn. Pioneer Press for March 22, 2003, "Kurds ready to fight Saddam," page 15A; the Duluth, Minn. News-Tribune for March 21, 2003, "The war begins: On the move," page 5A, and "Northern front left to Kurdish units," page 2S. Many thanks also to Ayesha al-Khatabi and Mohammed Hajj al-Amdar.)

(Editor's Comment: While scanning newspaper reports, your editor came across two items of interest:

(1)   A photo of B-52s taking off from RAF-Fairford in UK for the long flight to the Middle East, which was apparently taken early on Wednesday.

(2)   A passing mention in USA Today to something called Operation Bug Splat, which the article described as some kind of "special software for selecting targets." I that "Bug" as in "Bug-Eyed Monster (BEM)," which is 1950s USA slang for extraterrestrials or space aliens?

Was Operation Bug Splat a kind of "piggyback mission," in which a wing of B- 52s left early to bomb Zarzi?)

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