BAGHDAD, Iraq March 20 —
For the second time in a day, U.S. forces launched precision
strikes on Iraq's capital city Thursday, leaving its ministry of
planning in flames and Saddam Hussein's loyalists wondering when a
promised full-scale blitz would begin.
The night sky crackled with flashing light and anti-aircraft
fire, reminiscent of the 1991 war under a different Bush
administration, as the Tomahawk cruise missiles began dropping on
Baghdad once again.
But instead of widespread bombardment, specific targets the main
presidential palace and the ministry building were struck by the
second wave of U.S. missiles. The two buildings were hit almost
simultaneously in a day bookended by morning and evening
There was no immediate word of casualties; the first attack
killed one and injured 14, the International Red Cross
"Bush, Bush, listen carefully," said Hamad Abdullah, one of six
family members hospitalized with shrapnel wounds. "We all love
A witness reported seeing anti-aircraft artillery on the roof of
the ministry building, which was burning as emergency vehicles
rushed to the scene.
The fire was visible from across the river on the east bank of
On a cool, breezy Baghdad night, a thick plume of black smoke
climbed into the sky, which was occasionally illuminated by red
flares or tracer fire.
The presidential palace sits on the west side of the Tigris
River, inside a vast area that stands as the official seat of power
in Iraq but is rarely used by Saddam. The Iraqi leader has access to
dozens of palaces.
Three distinct locations in the center of Baghdad were smoking
after apparently being bombed.
Reports circulating Thursday night suggested that a 10-story
office building damaged in the attack belonged to Deputy Prime
Minister Tariq Aziz, a powerful figure in Saddam's regime and a
stalwart of his ruling Baath party who often speaks for the Iraqi
Other thunderous detonations resounded from the area of the
airport before the all-clear siren sounded, leaving an eerie quiet
cut only by the roar of generators.
As dusk fell Thursday, many of those left in Baghdad ordinarily a
city of 5 million abandoned its normally bustling streets for the
safety of their homes, shelters or the countryside, anticipating
By 7:30 p.m., there was hardly anyone on the streets and only a
few cars speeding off. Within 90 minutes, the squawk of air raid
sirens filled the air and the second attack was under way.
Although longer in duration than the barrage that launched the
war hours earlier, the bombing lasted barely 15 minutes, hardly on
the scale of the 1991 bombings.
The blast of the air raid sirens resumed once again later, but
there was no further attack. F-14 and F-18 jets armed with missiles
and bombs took off from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the eastern
Mediterranean; their targets were unknown.
Pentagon officials have described their war strategy as "shock
and awe," saying they planned to drop 10 times the bombs in the
opening days of the air campaign in Iraq than they did in the first
Hundreds of armed members of Saddam's Baath party were hunkered
down in the capital, waiting for the United States to unleash its
full might, but there was no indication of when that might
On Iraq Radio, a spokesman said that the first attack of the war
had targeted Saddam's family home, as well as the homes of his three
daughters. The spokesman condemned "the missiles of the reckless
criminal Bush and his lackeys."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that first attack had
targeted an Iraqi leadership compound, and that U.S. officials had
"very good intelligence" about the site.
Baghdad was last bombed in December 1998, when U.S. missiles hit
military targets around the city to punish Iraq for blocking U.N.
|Smoke and flames appear in the
sky over Baghdad following an explosion, Thursday, March 20,
2003. Explosions could be heard in Baghdad coming from an area
where Saddam Husseins's palaces and intelligence headquarters
are located. The second round of U.S.-led air attacks was
launched Thursday night, but U.S. military officials said the
assault was not the beginning of the massive air campaign the
Pentagon has planned. (AP
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