- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Latest developments:

— Thousands of U.S. Marines crossed the Kuwait border in Iraq late Thursday, signaling the start of the ground campaign against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

— U.S. and British forces seized the Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr near the Kuwait border on Thursday night, CNN reported.

— U.S. military officials confirmed Thursday that three to four oil wells were burning near the Kuwaiti border.

— Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S.-led war on Iraq will be on a large scale; the goal is to disarm Saddam Hussein and liberate Iraqis quickly. He said Iraqis should listen for instructions on how to get food and water and should avoid military facilities; and he urged Iraqi military to surrender.

— Large explosions were seen and heard in Baghdad for about 30 minutes Thursday night, and anti-aircraft gunfire erupted around the city. CNN reported smoke rising from three areas, and said about 20 cruise missiles were used from U.S. Navy ships and submarines in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and from two British submarines.

— Earlier Thursday, more than 40 cruise missiles were fired at several targets in and around Baghdad in an attempt to target the senior Iraqi leadership —particularly Saddam. The missiles were launched from two cruisers, two destroyers and two submarines operating in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Two F-117A stealth fighters also took part, attacking with 2,000-pound precision bombs.

— Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment clashed with Iraqi troops across the Kuwaiti border Thursday night. Army sources told CNN soldiers destroyed a number of Iraqi military vehicles.

— Iraqi television said early Friday that coalition forces hit a military site in Basra, near the Kuwaiti border, and in Akashat, about 300 miles west of Baghdad near the Syrian border. Iraqi television reported four Iraqi soldiers were killed.

— U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped the "requirements of international humanitarian law" will be observed in Iraq and civilians will be shielded.

— Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abou El Raghe ordered the border with Iraq sealed as aid workers suggested a huge influx of Iraqi refugees was imminent. Several thousand Jordanian troops were sent to the border to create a buffer zone.

— Saddam appeared on Iraqi television after the strikes early Thursday, urging Iraqis to "fight American criminals with all the might you have." He called the coalition that includes the United States, Britain and Australia "enemies of humanity and God."

— The White House on Thursday said it had reached no conclusions about the appearance of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on Iraqi state-run television. U.S. officials were unsure if the figure was Saddam.

— There was some confusion about casualties from the initial missile attacks early Thursday in Baghdad. Jordanian officials said a Jordanian truck driver was killed, Iraq said one Iraqi was killed, and in Lebanon the Palestine Liberation Front said one of its officers was killed. The International Red Cross said one person was killed and 14 were wounded.

— The Turkish parliament voted to let U.S. warplanes use Turkish airspace in a war with Iraq.

— South Korea's military was placed on full alert with concerns mounting that North Korea could use turbulence in the Persian Gulf as an opportunity to ratchet up tensions on the Korean peninsula.

— The European Union remained split over the Iraqi crisis, with France, Germany and Greece criticizing war against Baghdad and Britain, Italy and Spain backing the U.S.-led strikes.

— Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a "quick end of military operations" against Iraq. Putin told his Security Council in Moscow that the U.S.-led attack on Iraq was "unjustified" and a "serious political mistake."

— U.S. President George W. Bush said Wednesday night the United States would use decisive force to limit the length of the campaign. About 240,000 American, 45,000 British and 2,000 Australian troops were massed in the Persian Gulf to be used against Iraq.

— Religious groups and leaders were unanimous in expressing sadness and appealing for prayers and reconciliation on the Iraq war. "Prayer can unite us globally in a way nothing else can," said a statement from the Anglican Communion.

— The United States and other industrialized countries have plenty of oil on hand, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said.

— Crude oil prices continued to fall Thursday after a brief rally inspired by ominous reports of burning Iraqi oil wells. May crude prices briefly topped $30 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and then settled at $28.12, down $1.24 on the day.

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