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U.S. invasion of Iraq starts
Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

WASHINGTON: The US military struck with cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs against a site near Baghdad where Iraqi leaders were thought to be. President George W. Bush described the action as the opening salvo in an campaign to "disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

With coalition warplanes striking Iraqi artillery sites, a military convoy headed toward Iraq, and Iraqi troops already surrendering to US forces, President Bush’s war against Saddam Hussein had begun. About a dozen US and coalition warplanes dropped precision munitions on nearly a dozen Iraqi artillery pieces in the southern no-fly zone that could have been in range of American troops poised to invade southern Iraq, Pentagon officials said. Some of the artillery was located on the Al Faw peninsula, between Basra and Iraq’s Persian Gulf coast. Another strike targeted sites northwest of Iraq’s border with Kuwait.

The United States had been conducting around-the-clock reconnaissance of the artillery, and its forces had been expected to strike those targets out of concern that coalition ground forces could be in range. There also had been concern some of the artillery could be capable of using chemical munitions. Warplanes also struck Iraqi cable repeater sites and command and control sites. In addition, at least one Al Ababil surface-to-surface missile launcher was struck. In Kuwait, hundreds of military vehicles were spotted heading north toward the Iraqi frontier. Pentagon officials said sandstorms in the region could be a problem for US helicopters, which are expected to be a key element of an invasion.

They said the Bush administration wants to launch the air campaign and ground assault almost simultaneously. Witnesses described a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of road filled with tanks, armoured personnel carriers, fuel trucks and other vehicles. Meanwhile, some Iraqi soldiers may have taken to heart the advice of an American military leaflet campaign as they surrendered Wednesday to US forces. The 17 men are believed to be the first of their countrymen to give up — a move the US Air Force has been actively encouraging by showering the Iraqi landscape with more than 2 million leaflets in anticipation of a ground war.

Earlier, two New York Times correspondents embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division said 15 Iraqi border guards had crossed over the border into Kuwait and surrendered as some 20,000 American troops moved into the area.

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