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An Update on the Iraq Attack - 2003-03-21

The military attack to disarm Saddam Hussein began with a bombing campaign. It was aimed at Iraqi military defensive position in Iraq and at leadership compounds in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The United States launched its assault against Iraq by first hitting selected targets in the capital Baghdad and around the southern city of Basra. As the air bombardment continues thousands of U.S. Marines Thursday began the ground invasion, crossing the Kuwaiti border into Iraq. There are initial reports that a number of Iraqi soldiers have already surrender.

Hours earlier the U.S. launched 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles from some six Navy ships. A short time later precision-guided bombs were dropped from F-117 fighter-bombers hitting three targets in the capital.

Reports say the pre-dawn attack was made on a senior Iraqi leadership compound where it was believed at the time Saddam Hussein and his top generals were staying.

Hours after the U.S. attack, Saddam Hussein appeared on Iraqi television to accuse the United States and Britain of committing what he called "shameful crimes." He urged Iraqis to "draw their swords" to fight the invaders.

A short time later Iraq retaliated by launching two missiles into Kuwait. Warning sirens were turned on in Kuwait City and people on the streets put on gas masks.

Defense officials say the missiles landed in the desert near a camp of U.S. Marines and Kuwaiti troops. No damage or injuries were reported. Reports also say the missiles did not carried biological or chemical weapons.

At a news conference in Washington Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said officials are studying the damage from the initial U.S. airstrikes. He also said there are reports that Iraq may have set fire to four oil wells near the southern city of Basra. Mr. Rumsfeld says while the military campaign is in its early stages he believes Saddam Hussein will not be in power much longer.

“The people of Iraq and the people in the region have to know that his days are numbered he is not going to be there. In some period of time he is gone and that regime is gone -- to the great benefit of the Iraqi people they will be liberated.”

Military analysts say U.S. and coalition ground forces will continue to push towards Baghdad. They say the soldiers are likely to face little resistance until they push towards cities in Southern Iraq.