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U.S. Bombing Devastates Iraqi "Leadership Target"

Reports indicated President Saddam Hussein and his sons may have been there, but officials said it would take time to confirm who was killed or injured.

“A leadership target was hit very hard,” said Marine Major Brad Bartelt, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Qatar.

U.S. intelligence officials indicated Saddam may have been in the building or a possible underlying bunker located in the western Baghdad neighborhood known as al-Mansour with his two sons Uday and Qusay, who also hold leadership positions in the regime.

“I don’t know whether he survived,” President George W. Bush said at a Tuesday press conference in Northern Ireland where he was meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “The only thing I know is that he’s losing power… Saddam Hussein will be gone. It might have been yesterday.”

Officials said a “damage assessment,” which could include inspections on the ground and a review of satellite photos, is underway to determine the effectiveness of the bombing.

Washington Post correspondents Anthony Shadid and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, reporting from Baghdad, said the four 2,000-pound “bunker buster” bombs, which are designed to burrow deep into the earth, left a 60 foot “smoking crater” where the house and suspected bunker once stood.

The Associated Press reported that the targeted building was a restaurant, which was completely destroyed along with two other buildings.

“The bombing broke windows and doors up to 300 yards away, ripped orange trees out by the roots and left a heap of concrete, mangled iron rods and shredded furniture and clothes,” the AP said.

Rescue workers at the scene pulled two unidentified bodies from the rubble and estimated that as many as 14 people may have been killed, the AP reported.

AP reporters talked to a Baghdad resident, Seif Hatef, 21, who said he had friends who were hurt by the bombing.

“Such attacks will make Iraqis more determined to resist. Iraq will remain and this war will never finish,” Hatef said.

There were no immediate reports regarding civilian casualties.

News reports said intelligence officials received information about a leadership meeting at the location Monday morning and relayed the information to U.S. Central Command. CentCom reportedly ordered a B-1 that was already in the air to strike the location.

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