U.S. Launches Missiles at Saddam
(Washington D.C.)-- U.S. and coalition forces launched missiles and bombs Thursday at targets in Iraq in a "decapitation attack" aimed at Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other top members of the country's leadership.
As morning dawned in Baghdad, U.S. warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf fired about 40 satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles, military officials said. F-117 stealth fighters, which each carry two 2,000-pound "bunker buster" bombs, also were involved in the strikes.
U.S. government officials said a private home outside Baghdad had been targeted after intelligence indicated "some optimism" about the location of top Iraqi leadership -- including Saddam.
The Red Cross reported that one person was killed and 14 people were injured in the strikes.
Iraq responded to the attack by firing at least four missiles into northern Kuwait, two of which were intercepted by U.S. Patriot missiles, U.S. military officials said.
President Bush announced the start of the military campaign against Iraq in a televised address Wednesday night from the White House.
"American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger," Bush said.
Wearing a military uniform, a defiant Saddam delivered a taped message on Iraqi television to denounce the U.S.-led military campaign as "criminal" and to say his countrymen would be victorious. He gave Thursday's date, March 20, as evidence his message was recorded after the coalition attack. He ended by saying, "Long live jihad and long live Palestine."
U.S. intelligence officials said they believed the tape was genuine, but expressed "guarded optimism" that the attack may have killed several senior Iraqi leaders.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon called the strikes a "warning shot" to Saddam's regime, not the actual opening of the war.
U.S. forces sounded numerous alerts in the hours after the strikes, sending troops at several bases scrambling for their chemical protection gear and running for bunkers.
The United States and Great Britain have massed nearly 300,000 troops in the Persian Gulf region.
• Officials now confirm that U.S. Special Forces are performing reconnaissance missions in southern Iraq, CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr reported Thursday morning. "They call it preparing the battlefield," Starr said. A Special Forces helicopter crashed in the southern no-fly zone, late Wednesday -- before the attacks began. No one on board was injured, and all were evacuated, CNN has learned.
• Two missiles landed near Camp Iwo Jima, a key U.S. logistics center in the Kuwaiti desert, the U.S. military said. CNN's Sanjay Gupta, who is with the Marines at the camp, said troops were ordered into bunkers and told to put on gas masks, followed by the announcement "missiles inbound." The Marines who got the best look at a "missile-like" object said it was self-propelled and green with yellow stripes, Gupta said.
• CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson reported that the streets of Baghdad were quiet, except for a few government vehicles, taxis and vehicles belonging to television news agencies. Robertson said he did not see any Iraqi soldiers from his vantage point.
• Shortly after the U.S.-led strikes began, CNN's Kyra Phillips reported from the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf: "I can tell you we may be able to see more than 100 aircraft in the air -- depending how the tempo of the operation progresses. We're all surprised this happened so quickly and is happening in a manner that none of us really expected. Even the squadrons here are learning by the minute how this campaign is unfolding. I can tell you U.S. strike fighter pilots are looking out for Iraqi SAMs -- surface-to-air missiles."
• A mortar round fired from the Iraqi front lines landed in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq Thursday, CNN's Kevin Sites reported. Black smoke was seen rising from the town of Chamchamal, but it was not known if there were any injuries. The town's mayor said the town had been mostly evacuated.
• Chaos at the Kuwait City International Airport early Thursday led officials there to close roads into the airport and allow in only employees and ticket holders, officials said. They also said they would not let anyone else in until the situation calmed down. Video footage of the airport terminal showed it packed, with crowds pushed up against ticket counters.
• World reaction to the U.S. strike was split, with some nations criticizing it as a "tragic mistake" and others calling it necessary.
• Across the United States, word of the beginning of war was met with a mixture of sadness and support.