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March 31, 2003
 
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(Reuters Photo)
Explosions Thunder in Baghdad, Saddam Complex Hit

Reuters


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By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two explosions hit the southern outskirts of Baghdad at dawn on Tuesday after a night of bombardment targeting the heart of the Iraqi capital and Republican Guard positions on its edges.

Five huge blasts hit the center of the city around midnight, including a strike against one of President Saddam Hussein's sprawling compounds on the banks of the River Tigris.

"A big, big, big cloud of smoke is coming out of the compound. Maybe they are using bigger bombs than before," Reuters reporter Samia Nakhoul said after the midnight raid.

The complex, used by Saddam, his son Qusay and aides, has been hit several times in the last 48 hours and was also struck by missiles in the opening days of the U.S. campaign to oust Iraq's ruler for the last quarter-century.

U.S. forces have targeted key government buildings, military and presidential sites in the city of over five million people in their 13-day-old war. Raids on Monday also struck Baghdad's Information Ministry and at least two telephone exchanges.

The dawn strike, launched by planes which could be heard from the ground, came without warning. No air sirens sounded.

It followed a brief lull in a concentrated bombardment which the United States and Britain have unleashed against Baghdad over the last three days.

While the aerial assault has raged, U.S.-led land troops say they have approached to within 50 miles of Baghdad, close to Republican Guards defending the capital.

FLAMES AND FEAR

Around midnight, flames could be seen rising into the night from a blast which rocked the central Palestine Hotel.

"It is very frightening. There is a lot of panic. I can hear people shouting and screaming in the street below" the hotel, Nakhoul said.

Anti-aircraft fire was heard just before the explosions. Earlier, U.S. or British warplanes had screamed low over the center of the city.

Another explosion came from the headquarters of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, headed by Saddam's eldest son Uday.

"It is on fire. It's a huge fire," Reuters correspondent Khaled Yacoub Oweis said.

The building stands next to the Martyrs' Memorial, a stunning monument in blue marble of two half domes facing each other, built in memory of the thousands of Iraqi soldiers who died in the 1980-1988 war with Iran.

For a few hours after midnight, correspondent Nadim Ladki said booms could be heard from the outskirts of the city every three to four minutes. Some shook buildings in the center of Baghdad, several miles away.

An aircraft dropped a bomb or missile on central Baghdad at around 6 p.m. EST Monday, shaking the capital. Anti-aircraft fire occasionally rattled out into the night sky.


photo credit and caption:
A pre-strike and post-strike photograph of Baghdad state-controlled TV Studio and broadcasting facility shown during a briefing in Qatar, March 30, 2003. An intense artillery barrage opened up on Baghdad's southern outskirts on March 31 as warplanes from the U.S.-led invasion force screamed low over the Iraqi capital and anti-aircraft fire crackled in the sky. "The artillery fire is suddenly very intense. We can hear it coming from the south. It's unusual," said Reuters correspondent Samia Nakhoul. Photo by Reuters (Handout)

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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