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Invasion begins; US, British marines clash with Iraqi troops
March 21, 2003 03:58 IST
United States and allied forces on Thursday evening [local time] began Operation Iraqi Freedom by launching a full-scale invasion of Iraq.
The US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the British Royal Marines clashed with Iraqi troops and an allied bombardment began along the border between Iraq and Kuwait.
Sirens went off in Kuwait City at about midnight, in anticipation of an Iraqi counter attack. But a few minutes later, the all-clear siren was sounded. The Kuwait City airport was, however, closed for all commercial flights.
CNN said such drills were conducted several times through the day.
Unconfirmed reports from Kuwait City said the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr had been captured. But a British military spokesman denied any such development.
Several large explosions were heard in Baghdad at about 2100 hours [1800 GMT, 2330 IST].
Air raid sirens sounded briefly, about 20 minutes before the blasts. A few minutes later anti-aircraft fire lit the sky.
According to CNN, two buildings were on fire in the centre of the city.
CNN also reported intense attacks by US artillery and aircraft on positions in southern Iraq.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged Iraqi leaders to surrender. The assault would be "of a force and scope and scale that is beyond what has been seen before", he said.
CNN also reported that the land attack was advanced by at least a day after Iraq launched the missile attacks on kuwait on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, US warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf fired about 40 satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles, military officials said.
F-117A fighters, which carry two 2,000-pound "bunker buster" bombs, were involved in the strikes.
Royal Air Force Tornados also flew a series of missions, dropping laser-guided bombs on military targets.
The Red Cross said one person was killed and 14 injured in the strikes.
Iraqi TV said seventy-two cruise missiles had struck Iraq and many of them failed. CNN, however, quoted officials as saying that more than 100 cruise missiles had been fired within the first 18 hours of the attack.
Five people had died and a similar number injured, the Iraqi TV said.
An Iraqi blogger on the Internet wrote that the bombing was coming and going in waves, but was nothing yet compared to what they experienced in 1991. He also reported that all radio and television stations were functioning, but none of them even bothered to report the raids, playing patriotic songs most of the time.
- Turkey and Cyprus allowed the US to use their airspaces to launch attacks on Iraq.
- The Bush administration will ask nations around the world to close Iraqi embassies in anticipation of the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, US officials said.
- Iraq fired at least 10 missiles into northern Kuwait, two of which US Patriot missiles intercepted, according to BBC.
- "I have seen indications and reports from people that the Iraqi regime may have set fire to as many as three or four of the oil wells in the south," Donald Rumsfeld said.
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged combatants to "do everything in their power to shield the civilian population from the grim consequences of war".
- A Special Forces helicopter crashed in the southern Iraqi "no-fly" zone before the attack began, Pentagon said. No one on board was injured, CNN said.