cruise missile launched against baghdad

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    Cruise missile launched against Baghdad
    March 20 2003

    A cruise missile strike has been launched against Baghdad, CNN reports, as the White House confirms the disarmament of Iraq is underway.

    CNN say US officials have confirmed the missilie was launched against "a target of opportunity".

    Air raid sirens and anti aircraft guns were heard in Baghdad.

    White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a brief statement: "The stages of the disarmament of Iraq have begun. The president will address the nation at 10.15pm (1415 AEDT)."

    Bush's 48-hour ultimatum for Saddam and his sons to go into exile ended at 4am in Baghdad (noon AEDT).

    Pople in Baghdad and around the world now wait for the onslaught to begin.

    Earlier today the US army reported no US military activity in Iraq immediately after the expiration of the deadline.

    ``We don't have anything to report,'' said Captain Danielle Burrows of the forward command and control centre in Doha, Qatar. ``We don't comment on operational matters before they happen.''

    She was speaking at the As-Saliyah base near Kuwait City which will direct a US-led assault on Iraq.

    In Kuwait City, a spokesman for US and British forces refused to say whether any allied troops were moving into Iraq, minutes after the expiration of the deadline.

    ``We are not going to divulge that information,'' the spokesman, US Major Chris Hughes, told AFP.

    He said he was ``absolutely not'' going to say whether any of the 180,000 coalition soldiers massed near the Kuwait-Iraq border had started moving forward, nor whether any other units had started operations.

    ``As the president said, it's going to be at a time and place of our choosing,'' Hughes said.

    Earlier today, the United States and Britain conducted wide-ranging air strikes in southern and western, bombing long-range artillery and a surface-to-surface missile system that threatened coalition forces poised to invade the country from Kuwait, officials said.

    The warplanes struck at least seven targets over a 10 hour period as the clock ran on a US deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his two sons to leave the country or face war.

    US and British officials said the strikes were within the scope of normal enforcement of a no-fly zone over southern Iraq, and the US Central Command said they were launched in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire.

    But the strikes targeted 10 artillery systems that had been moved last week into range of US and British forces massing in Kuwait for a ground offensive as well as a surface-to-surface missile system, a US defence official said.

    The Central Command said long range artillery were struck at Az Zubayr and in the Al Faw peninsula, and a surface-to surface missile system near Basra.

    Warplanes also bombed a traffic control radar near Basra and communications sites near Ash Shuaybah, Mydaysis and Ruwayshid in southern Iraq.

    "The artillery was struck because they were a danger to coalition ground troops in Kuwait," the command said.

    "The air traffic control radar was used to direct Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire at coalition aircraft."

    In western Iraq, they targeted a radar and an air defence command centre near the H-3 airfield that defends the approaches to Baghdad from Jordan, the command said.

    "The coalition executed today's strikes after Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at coalition aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq," the command said.

    In London, a spokeswoman for the British Defence Ministry said, "We are flying over southern Iraq. This evening we are targeting systems which are a threat to our forces."

    "We have been doing this for the last 10 years. It's the same as we've been doing, but obviously the time is perhaps more relevant," the official said.

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