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US-Led Troops Enter Iraq
21 Mar 2003, 00:06 UTC
photo of building on fire in Iraq, Thursday -->
U.S. and coalition forces have invaded Iraq as a second night
of air strikes have continued over the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
A full day after President Bush ordered military action to topple
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, there are questions about whether
top Iraqi leaders, including President Saddam himself, may have
been hit during an initial round of U.S. airstrikes.
Baghdad echoes with the sounds of heavy explosions from cruise
missile strikes, the night sky lit up by retaliatory anti-aircraft
fire coming from Iraqi sites. Reports from the Iraqi capital
say some of the explosions were heard near two of Saddam Hussein's
palaces, as well ministries and other government buildings.
All this followed by long periods of quiet, ahead of what U.S.
defense officials are promising will be a massive "shock
and awe" barrage of air strikes.
Kuwaiti-based American ground troops along with tanks and armor
have rolled across Iraq's southern border. Journalists accompanying
them, including VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu, report U.S. troops
and tanks are now striking at Iraqi forces in heavy artillery
barrages, pushing deeper into Iraq, encountering minor skirmishes
but no reports of significant Iraqi opposition.
"The third infantry division has started its ground attack
using artillery. We've been hearing heavy detonations where
I am," he said. "The night sky sort of lighting up
with the explosions."
Just hours after the ground war started, there have been no
casualty reports but one American reporter embedded with coalition
troops says more Iraqi soldiers have been surrendering rather
than fight against invading forces.
Donald Rumsfeld -->
Here in Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is looking
into reports that Iraq is setting fire to oil wells in an apparent
effort to stop advancing coalition forces.
"I have seen indication 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," he said.
In neighboring Kuwait, air raid warnings sounded repeatedly
Thursday and the country was hit by several missiles fired from
Iraq, sending people scurrying indoors and forcing those outside
to don gas masks. None of the missiles appeared to be armed
with chemical or biological warheads and no injuries were reported.
One of the first U.S. airstrikes on Iraq was described as a
senior leadership compound where Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
believes President Saddam Hussein may have been meeting with
his top leadership.
"We had what I would characterize very good intelligence
that it was a senior Iraqi leadership compound. We do not know
what the battle damage assessment will be," he said.
Nearly 24 hours after that air strike, U.S. intelligence officials
still had not said whether a man who appeared to be Saddam Hussein
and went on Iraqi television after the raid to denounce President
Bush was in fact the Iraqi leader. They spent Thursday analyzing
the footage to determine it was him, knowing he has several
At the same time, the Pentagon, which for weeks now has been
using various means including e-mail to contact elements of
the Iraqi military, suggests its message to Iraqi commanders
that Saddam Hussein is about to be ousted and that they should
surrender, may be paying off.
"We see evidence of military personnel, some have already
surrendered in Kuwait," he said. "We are in communication
with still more people who are officials of the military at
various levels, the regular army, the Republican Guard, the
Special Republican Guard, who are increasingly aware that it's
going to happen, he's going to be gone," he said.
Even though President Bush's deadline for Saddam Hussein to
go into exile expired on Wednesday, the White House says it
is not too late for him to leave Iraq.