U.S. Forces Begin War With Iraq, Down Iraqi Scud Missile
The strikes began at about 5:35 a.m. local time Wednesday (9:25 p.m. Eastern time), some 90 minutes after President Bush’s deadline for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq expired.
The initial strikes against Baghdad consisted of 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, as well as precision-guided 2,000-pound bombs dropped from two F-117A Nighthawk stealth jets.
Dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom” by the Department of Defense, the opening strike was reportedly aimed at killing senior Iraqi leadership.
The Washington Post reported that Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet told President Bush at around 4pm Eastern time that U.S. intelligence had an apparent fix on Saddam’s location– a development that led to the decision to launch the apparently improvised surgical strike.
Saddam later appeared on state-run television Thursday in full military uniform, saying the U.S. had committed a “shameful crime” and telling his people to “draw your sword” against the invaders.
According to initial reports from the Red Cross, one person was killed and 14 injured in the air strike.
Iraq’s information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, said in a statement Thursday that one citizen was “martyred” in the attack and a number of civilians injured. According to al-Sahaf, the strikes hit a customs office and an empty Iraqi TV building, among other targets.
Iraqi forces responded hours later, firing at least two Scud missiles toward U.S. forces in Kuwait. None of the Iraqi missiles caused any injuries or damage with at least one landing harmlessly in the Kuwaiti desert, according to media reports. One Scud was also reportedly intercepted by a U.S. Patriot missile system.
The Iraqi retaliation did cause American and British soldiers to briefly don gas masks and chemical suits but officials later said the weapons were of a conventional nature and did not contain any chemical or biological agents.
Air raid sirens and explosions were heard off and on in both Baghdad and Kuwait City throughout the hours after the initial strike according to media reports from the region.
American messages have reportedly been broadcast on Iraqi radio stations during the morning hours, telling listeners, “This is the day you have been waiting for,” according to news reports.
The initial U.S. attack was not the massive “shock and awe” strategy some military officials had promised, which would have included some 3,000 satellite-guided bombs and cruise missiles launched from both the sea and the air on targets vital to Saddam’s government.
“This was not what we thought would happen,” Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, told the Associated Press. “This was out of the plan.”
In all, some 300,000 U.S.-led troops are assembled in the Persian Gulf region, readying for the larger, comprehensive strike the president said Wednesday was on its way.