Some US Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at Iraq have fallen on Saudi Arabia, forcing planners to suspend certain routes for launches, US military commanders say.
“In the case of Saudi Arabia, we did have a number of T-LAM missiles that were reported down in their territory,” Major General Victor Renuart said at war headquarters in Qatar.
“We continue to use Tomahawk cruise missiles throughout the theatre. We have coordinated with the Saudis to hold on a couple of routes that might put them in a position where they could be close to any civilian population,” he told a news conference.
A US defence official, speaking in Washington on condition of anonymity, says “about five” Tomahawk missiles landed in the Saudi desert without exploding.
Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency quoted an unnamed high-ranking Saudi defence official as saying the kingdom had submitted an official complaint to the US regarding the incident.
The official also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s position that it will not participate in the war with Iraq in any way, SPA said.
Maj Gen Renuart says the problem occurs shortly after the launch phase of the missiles, before they begin their cruise flight toward Iraq.
“Basically we have a situation where the Saudis have said, ‘Can you see if we can figure out what has caused this?'” Maj Gen Renuart said.
“And so we have agreed with them to conduct a review of those launch procedures.”
In Washington, the defence official expressed confidence US forces would at some point regain the ability to fire missiles across Saudi territory along the routes that have been suspended.
However, he did not say when that would happen.
The official says the suspension has had “no effect” on US war operations but did not rule out the possibility missile-firing warships would have to move to provide different routes for the cruise missiles to travel to Iraqi targets.
Tomahawk cruise missiles are fired by ships and submarines at land targets.