Shortly after the United States launched its second war with Iraq on Wednesday night, with an opening salvo of 42 Tomahawk missiles and satellite-guided GBU-27 bombs directly targeting Saddam, Iraqi TV broadcast what it said was a live speech by Saddam, calling on his people to "use your swords against your enemy" and "vanquish evil."
But in a news conference in Washington today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that while a damage assessment of last night's attacks was under way, the United States had hit a senior Iraqi leadership position in its initial strikes.
"The day of your liberation may soon be at hand," Rumsfeld said. "The days of the Saddam Hussein regime are numbered. We continue to feel there is no need for a broader conflict if the Iraqi leaders act to save themselves and to prevent such further conflict."
But U.S. officials today were questioning whether the speech was live and if it was made by Saddam himself or one of his doubles.
The Iraqi leader has been known to have several doubles as a security precaution.
The morning after the launch of a "decapitation attack" targeted at ousting Saddam's regime, U.S. officials were conducting voice analysis of the speech and were carefully monitoring the content of his message, ABCNEWS has learned.
Hours after the televised speech, Iraq fired at least four missiles into Kuwait. While some of them were apparently aimed at U.S. troops awaiting a ground campaign near the Iraq-Kuwait border, at least one missile was aimed at Kuwait City.
U.S. officials say two of the Iraqi missiles were intercepted by Patriot missiles, and a British military spokesman said one of the missiles fired into Kuwait was a Scud. There were no reports of injuries or damages.
The Iraqi missile strikes into Kuwait prompted U.S. troops in Camp New Jersey near the Iraq-Kuwait border to don gas masks and chemical protective gear before the all-clear sirens were sounded. But there was no evidence yet that any chemical or biological weapons were deployed, according to a U.S. military spokesman.
Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf denied reports that Baghdad had launched Scud missiles at Kuwait. "I would like to tell you that we don't have Scud missiles," he told reporters at the news conference in Baghdad today. "And why they were fired, I don't know." Baghdad has previously denied having Scuds.
According to al-Sahaf, one person was killed in the U.S. pre-dawn strikes and several others were injured in a Baghdad suburb. The Iraqi minister also said U.S. strikes had hit empty media and customs buildings and civilian suburbs in Iraq.
In a nationally televised speech on Wednesday night announcing the start of the war, Bush said the hostilities that began with a focus on "selected targets of military importance" that would become a "broad and concerted campaign."
ABCNEWS has learned that the order to strike on Baghdad came following "actionable" U.S. intelligence about Saddam's whereabouts.
U.S. intelligence sources told ABCNEWS that the target of the U.S. strikes was a large residential complex in a Baghdad suburb — not a military installation or one of Saddam's palaces — where Saddam was believed to be meeting his advisers.
The target was believed to have a "hardened bunker" beneath the ground floor, according to U.S. intelligence sources, prompting a U.S. airstrike aimed at decapitating Saddam's regime in the opening salvo.
Shortly before the U.S. attack on Iraq began, a U.S. special forces helicopter crashed inside Iraq, ABCNEWS has learned.
The damaged aircraft had to be destroyed so it would not fall into Iraqi hands, according to Pentagon sources. The aircraft crew and the special forces team members were evacuated and there are no reports of any injuries.
The exact location of the crash was not known, but the incident was the strongest indication yet that special forces have begun preliminary operations inside the country in preparation for a broader assault.
U.S. officials today confirmed that there are Special Ops efforts underway in the north, west and south of Iraq. The operations were described as "softening the battlefield" prior to the arrival of the large land force in an upcoming ground offensive.
In Baghdad, air raid sirens began howling just before daybreak, followed by about 10 minutes of anti-aircraft fire and screaming air raid sirens. A series of explosions could be heard outside the Iraqi capital in the predawn hours, and subsequent bursts of explosions erupted periodically.
But as dawn broke in Baghdad, the streets were quiet although anti-aircraft artillery could be spotted and heavy thuds were heard from the outskirts of the city.
According to ABCNEWS' Richard Engels in Baghdad, residents appeared out of their homes in the early morning hours, some of them holding photographs of relatives they said had been injured in the attacks.
Nine people were in serious but stable condition with shrapnel injuries at Baghdad's Al-Yarmouk Hospital, Dr. Jamal Abed Hassan told the Associated Press today. They included six members of one family that was having breakfast when their town 20 miles west of Baghdad was attacked, the doctor said.
The local dailies called on the Iraqi people to resist an invasion as some of the residents were spotted chanting anti-U.S. slogans.
The attack came two days after Bush gave the Iraqi president and his sons, Odai and Qusai Hussein, 48 hours to leave the country or face military action.
The ultimatum brought to an end six months of frantic diplomacy at the U.N. Security Council, with France leading the call to give U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq more time to complete the disarmament process.
Despite the lack of U.N. approval and widespread opposition to the war in the Muslim world, the Bush administration has maintained that there was an international "coalition of the willing" backing a war. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell released a list of 30 nations he said had joined that group.
In November 2002, U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq after a four-year absence, when the Security Council unanimously voted Resolution 1441 granting Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."
A diplomatic effort to get another U.N. resolution on Iraq was abandoned on Monday.
An estimated 300,000 troops, including British and Australian military personnel, backed by more than 1,000 warplanes, were placed in the region, for an attack before the U.S. call to war. The troop buildup has been commandeered from a command center headquartered in Qatar.