Accessibility links

Explosions Rock Iraqi Capital, Friday - 2003-03-21

U.S. and British forces have launched their major air campaign against Iraq. Baghdad is coming under heavy bombardment.

Explosions rocked the Iraqi capital Friday night, triggering giant fireballs and causing plumes of smoke to rise from the city. Among the targets hit was Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's presidential complex. Witnesses say the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul have also come under attack.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Iraqi government is starting to lose control of the country. He told a Pentagon briefing that it is becoming clear Saddam Hussein's regime is history.

The U.S. military had said it would launch a major aerial war that would invoke "shock and awe" in the campaign to oust President Saddam.

U.S. and British forces seized territory in southern and western Iraq Friday after launching their ground offensive.

U.S. defense officials say American forces seized two airfields called H-2 and H-3 in western Iraq without much resistance. Officials say the airfields may be a basing site for Iraqi Scud missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

Coalition forces are reported racing across the desert toward Baghdad, while other troops seized the port of Umm Qasr and British forces secured the strategic Faw peninsula on the Persian Gulf. Coalition forces are now moving to take Iraq's second largest city, Basra.

The British military's chief of staff, Admiral Michael Boyce, says Iraqi troops are surrendering in significant numbers. He says only seven oil wells have been set on fire in southern Iraq not 30 as previously reported.

Two U.S. Marines were killed in southern Iraq - the first coalition combat fatalities of the war.

Four other Americans and eight Britons died in northern Kuwait early Friday in what is believed to be an accidental crash of a U.S. Marine helicopter.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters in Brussels the military campaign is going well, but he said the war will not be won overnight. He said there are signs of continuing Iraqi desertions and disagreements at all levels of the Iraqi government.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said a number of channels are open to Baghdad to convey the message that it is now inevitable that there will be a leadership change in Iraq. He said it would be wise for Iraqi leaders to realize "their day is over."