March 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India
US WAR ON IRAQ HAS BEGUN
Baghdad, March 20
US and British troops captured the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr, Kuwait’s state-run KUNA news agency has reported.
A US Marine officer also said US troops and tanks today crossed into southern Iraq to kick off a long-threatened invasion aimed at ousting the Iraqi President.
The officer, who asked not to be identified, said more than 1,000 members of the First Marine Expeditionary Force and the Army’s Third Infantry Division had moved up to 1.5 km into Iraq.
Eyewitness in the Iraqi capital reported several explosions near government buildings as cruise missiles swooped down, shaking the city with massive explosions. There was relatively little Iraqi anti-aircraft fire. Plumes of smoke rose from vicinity of the Foreign Ministry and the Planning Ministry offices.
It was the second round of US attacks after Saddam defied a US ultimatum to leave the country. The previous raid at dawn on Thursday targeted the Iraqi President and his senior leadership but the results were not clear.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the initial missile and bombing attacks in and around Baghdad were just a first taste of what would soon be unleashed. “What will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict. It will be of a force, scope and scale that has been beyond what has been seen before,” he said.
As night fell in Baghdad, eyewitnesses said US forces had launched a new artillery attack near the Iraq-Kuwait border, and large explosions were reported in the direction of the Iraqi city of Basra.
Other reporters saw US missiles strike areas in southern Iraq as well as helicopter gunships firing at ground targets. Nearly 280,000 US and British troops are in the Gulf region, many of them in Kuwait.
The New York Times on its website also said the first reported combat engagement of the war occurred when Marine armored vehicles encountered and destroyed two Iraqi armored personnel carriers. The newspaper did not say where the attack took place or mention any casualties.
Iraq responded to the first US attack with several missile strikes on northern Kuwait. All missed their targets or were intercepted by US missiles.
Saddam appeared on television three hours after the strikes on Baghdad, denouncing the "criminal, reckless little Bush". He urged Iraqis to resist the coming US invasion and promised a historic victory.
A total of six Scud missiles were fired by Iraq in northern Kuwait, two of which were intercepted by Patriot missiles, Kuwait’s Defence Ministry said. None of the missiles caused injuries or damages.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad said al Sahhaf said one civilian was killed and several others wounded when the USA launched the attack at dawn, 95 minutes after the expiry of the deadline President George W. Bush gave to Mr Saddam Hussein and his two sons to leave the country or face war.
In a brief televised address after US warplanes thundered in Baghdad, pounding key military targets, Mr Bush said: “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.” Agencies
Bagram, Afghanistan, March 20
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