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U.S. strikes targets: Cruise missiles launched at Iraqi leadership site

By By Paul Keane – Special to the Standard
A cruise missile attack on what was called a "target of opportunity" began the U.S.-led war against Iraq last night, marking "the opening stages of the disarmament of Iraq," according to White House officials.
At approximately 8:40 p.m. Wednesday, a cruise missile attack was launched on a "target of opportunity" in Iraq. The attack happened at roughly 5:40 a.m. Iraqi time.
Officials with the Pentagon said the initial attack was on a "leadership position," but did not elaborate.
Anti-aircraft fire and air raid sirens blared into the morning skies above Baghdad Thursday morning.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer – in similar fashion to the press secretary for the first President Bush – stepped up to a podium in the White House at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday to announce that "the opening stages of disarmament of Iraq had begun."
Between the time of that statement and a speech by President George W. Bush, Iraqi Radio broadcast a statement saying, in part, "God protect us from foreign aggressors," and "God protect our President" in reference to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
President Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office at 9:15 p.m. local time Wednesday. His speech that took less than four minutes.
Bush also commended the current and future efforts of both U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq.
The cruise missile attack came at a time roughly two hours after a U.S. imposed deadline for Hussein, his sons and other Iraqi leaders to leave the country or face war. The deadline for that ultimatum was 7 p.m. local time.
The Pentagon confirmed late Wednesday night that the missile cruise attack was a "decapitation attack" aimed at eliminating Hussein before the outbreak of war.
At press time, no word on further air strikes nor troop movements were known.