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Phase 1 of US Military Campaign Against Iraq Under Way - 2003-03-20


The United States launched a limited strike at specific targets in and around Baghdad Thursday morning, in the first phase of military action to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq responded by firing several missiles at Kuwait.

At 5:30 a.m. local time Thursday, warning sirens wailed throughout Baghdad. Moments later, U.S. bombers and Tomahawk missiles began targeting what were described as "targets of opportunity."

Iraq responded with anti-aircraft guns.

Iraqi officials claim several civilians were wounded during the attack, although that has not been confirmed by independent sources. Police cars and ambulances were reported speeding through the streets of Baghdad shortly after the attack.

Hours later, several Iraqi missiles hit in the northern frontier of Kuwait, but there were no reported casualties.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein appeared on national television three hours after the attack, pledging that Iraq would be victorious. It was not known if the broadcast was live.

His information minister, Mohammed Said Kazin al-Saahaf, held a news conference and lashed out at U.S. officials, based on reports that Thursday's strikes targeted Iraqi leaders. "I am sure they are stupid and will never succeed," he said. "But at the same time, this is good proof that they are criminals, and they are killers, and they are believing in assassinations. So, I think they should be condemned."

According to the Cable News Network as many as 2.5 million leaflets were dropped by coalition forces Thursday morning. The leaflets reportedly contained a drawing of a man wearing a gas mask standing near an explosion. The leaflets told Iraqi military personnel not to use weapons of mass destruction, and said there would be retribution if such weapons are used.

An expected mass bombardment has not yet been launched.

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