American-led coalition forces began striking selected targets inside Iraq, shortly after the expiration of a deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to abandon power.

A senior Pentagon official says the initial strikes were limited and involved F-117 stealth fighters and cruise missiles. The official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, said the strikes were aimed chiefly at setting the stage for future military operations.

The official declined to specify what targets were hit but appeared to cast doubt on reports suggesting the strikes were aimed at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The official urged "caution" in considering those reports.

In a broadcast address earlier, President Bush said the initial strikes were aimed at what he described as selected targets of military importance. He gave no details. But the start of what Mr. Bush said would be a "broad and concerted campaign" was a far cry from what had been widely expected.

Military officials had spoken consistently of a massive air assault, coupled with a large-scale ground invasion, a campaign of "shock and awe" designed to quickly subdue any opposition.

One senior official had told VOA the actual start of combat would be unmistakable, reaffirming the notion it would be swift, sudden and shattering.

There was no immediate explanation for the apparent change in plans and Pentagon spokesmen declined to discuss the operations, citing security reasons.