U.S. launches surgical strikes on Saddam's bunker

Iraq fires missiles toward
U.S. forces in Kuwait

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The United States has launched what officials described as surgical strikes meant to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his top aides.

U.S. bombers, fighter-jets and naval forces participated in what President George Bush called the opening stage of the war against Iraq.

On Thursday afternoon, Iraqi forces fired five Al Samoud and Scud missiles in three salvos toward U.S. Army positions in northern Kuwait, Middle East Newsline reported. The army fired Patriot interceptors and destroyed at least one Al Samoud missile. Nobody was hurt in the Iraqi missile attack.

Officials said 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired against two targets in southern Iraq and later on the outskirts of Baghdad.

One of the targets was said to have been the bunker where Saddam has taken refuge. In all, four waves of attacks were reported. Three of them were in southern Iraq and the fourth was on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The opening U.S. strike included missions by B-52 heavy bombers, F-117 stealth fighters and cruise missile attacks. The United States began the war slightly before the deadline set by Bush for the exile by Saddam and his sons.

"Coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war," Bush said in a televised address on late Wednesday. "These are the opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign."

The Iraqi attacks prompted Kuwaiti authorities to sound civil defense sirens in Kuwait City to warn of a possible biological or chemical weapons attack. Kuwaiti authorities called on residents to wear their gas masks, and minutes later the capital was rocked by an explosion from a reported Iraqi missile.

U.S. officials said a massive attack on Iraq is expected to begin later on Thursday or early Friday. They said the attack would comprise strikes on Iraqi targets from air, land and sea.

On Thursday, Iraqi state radio and television broadcasts were disrupted as they issued appeals to the military to fight for Saddam. Later, Saddam appeared on radio and television and in a brief address urged Iraqis to defend his regime.

U.S. intelligence analysts said Saddam's choice of words suggested an order for the use of nonconventional weapons. The analysts said the Saddam appearance was taped before the broadcast.

"Unsheathe your sword," Saddam said. "Nobody will be victorious unless he is a brave man."

The United States informed Israel in advance of the allied attack on late Wednesday, Israeli officials said. They said Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 90 minutes before the strike. The officials said Sharon had been told by the White House of the exact date of the war on Sunday.

Iraq began destroying its oil facilities in the south, opposition sources said. At the same time, the London-based Sky News reported that two Iraqi divisions were preparing to surrender to the U.S. military. The news channel did not say where the divisions were located.

U.S. defense sources also reported the advance of U.S. and British special operations forces in both northern and southern Iraq. They said special forces attacked Iraqi targets in the port city of Basra, located near southern Iraqi oil fields.

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