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2003 Iraq war timeline

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This is the ongoing timeline of the 2003 Iraq war, principally the military actions and consequences of the US-led invasion.

See Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 2001-2003 and preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq for events leading up to the invasion.

Table of contents

March 20, 2003

At approximately 02:30 UTC or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, at 5:30 am local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad. At 03:15 UTC, or 10:15 pm EST[?], President George W. Bush announced that he had ordered the coalition to launch an "attack of opportunity" against specified targets in Iraq. According to The Pentagon, 36 Tomahawk missiles and two F-117 launched GBU-27 bombs had been used in this assault. It has become clear that the targets were high-level Iraqi governmental officials, including Saddam Hussein himself, and were based on specific intelligence which led the U.S. government to believe it knew his movements. Later, Iraqi state television broadcast an address by Saddam Hussein. The U.S. and U.K. analysed the footage closely because they believed one of his body doubles may have been used, but the U.S. eventually said it believed the address was indeed delivered by Saddam Hussein himself. It has not yet been ascertained when the address was recorded, however. Speculation started of the possible death of Saddam Hussein.

It was later announced that Special Forces troops were operating inside Iraq; Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. all have Special Forces troops in the area. Soon after the strike on Baghdad, Iraq launched a number of missiles at targets in Kuwait, including the coalition forces stationed there. The coalition reported that they caused no damage. Some have speculated that these may have been Scud missiles, but this has not yet been confirmed. If true, this would be a material breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and would be counter to what Iraqi officials had claimed. It is known that they carried conventional explosive warheads, not chemical or biological payloads. Later in the day, both U.K. and U.S. ground troops moved into the demilitarised zone between Iraq and its neighbour, Kuwait, and then into Iraq itself. During the night, eight British and four American troops were killed when a transport helicopter crashed. Official reports said the crash was not due to enemy action.

The coalition forces were commanded by General Tommy Franks. The Iraqis named commanders a few days before the invasion: General Izzat Ibrahim in the north, General Ali Hassan al-Majid in the south, Mizban Khadr Hadi[?] in the central Euphrates area and Qusay Hussein in the central area including Baghdad and Tikrit.

  • Protests take place around the world. In Australia, they take such forms as a "NO WAR" slogan being painted on the Sydney Opera House, Greenpeace demonstrators chaining themselves to the gates of the Australian Prime Minister's residence ( the Lodge) and a former Navy officer burning his uniform outside Australia's Parliament House. In Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh is sprayed with red paint for his US stand. In Great Britain, Tony Blair survives a rebellion within his own party to win parliamentary support of war actions in Iraq.

March 21, 2003

Early in the morning, British Royal Marines occupied the strategically important al-Faw peninsula in the south-eastern corner of Iraq. Later in the day, a combined force of Royal Marines and U.S. Marines were said by official sources to have captured the nearby town of Umm Qasr, Iraq's only deep-water port. Coalition forces were greeted with cheers from some Iraqi citizens as they took control of the city. Earlier, the U.S. Marines had been forced to retreat by heavy gunfire after crossing the Iraqi border. They were able to cross the border again with the support of two M1 Abrams tanks. A BBC reporter with the troops said that the coalition forces were not in complete control of the town, and reported that helicopters had been called in to help establish control.

Throughout the day, U.S. and U.K. forces moved through the south of the country, with forces towards the East reportedly reaching the edge of Iraq's second city, Basra and the U.S. Third Infantry division towards the West reaching the outskirts of the strategically crucial town of Nasiriya on the river Euphrates, where they came under fire from Iraqi defences. The British government claimed that the forces had all the major southern oil fields under control.

There was also fighting in the north of the country, with some reports that it involved U.S. Special Forces. During the day, a number of oil wells - seven, according to the British government - were reported to be on fire. Again according to the British government, two of the fires were extinguished by special firefighting troops. The Iraqi government denied that oil wells had been set on fire, saying that it had set fire to oil-filled trenches as a defensive measure against airstrikes.

At around 18:00 UTC, Baghdad came under heavy aerial bombardment, in what appears to be the start of the promised massive aerial attack of Iraq intended to produce a "Shock and awe" effect on the population of the country. The Pentagon later reported that 320 Tomahawk missiles had been launched on targets in and around Baghdad. According to the Iraqi Minister for Information, the strikes wounded 207 civilians, although this has not been independently verified. Simultaneous airstrikes were reported to have taken place in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.

Near midnight UTC, it was reported by the U.S. military that the commander and deputy commander of the Iraqi Army 51st Division had surrendered to U.S. Marines. It was not reported how many of the division's men had also surrendered. The Iraq government reported that no Iraqi troops had surrendered, and that reports to the contrary were US propaganda.

In Southern Iraq, Iraqi forces are reported to have fired on Allied lines with Russian made 122mm howitzers; weapons used by the US against Iraqi forces are reported to include 155mm howitzers, Hellfire missiles, Cobra helicopter gunships, and bombardment by explosives and napalm.

During the day, the first U.S. combat casualties were reported - two U.S. Marines were killed in action in southern Iraq. Iraqi state television showed what it said was footage of Saddam Hussein meeting with one of his sons, in a further attempt to prove that he had not been killed in the previous day's attack on Baghdad.

March 22, 2003

Airstrikes on Baghdad continued, with the attacks now concentrated on the city's outskirts.

Around midnight UTC (early morning local time), the Turkish military stated that 1,500 Turkish troops had moved into northern Iraq. The intervention of Turkish troops had been opposed by the U.S. German government has announced that it will call back the German AWACS personnel watching NATO airspace above Turkey if Turkish troops engage in fights in northern Iraq.

At 1:15 UTC, a collision of two British Sea King helicopters over the Gulf killed six British soldiers and one American.

At 10:00 UTC, it was reported that U.S. forces were attempting to occupy the city of Basra, and were involved in a major tank battle on the western side of the city.

Kurdish officials report a US missile attack on territory held by the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam.

According to Iraqi government reports, there have been 2 civilians killed and 207 wounded, mostly women and children. There have been no defections or surrenders of Iraqi troops, and western footage to the contrary is showing kidnapped Iraqi civilians. Five US tanks and numerous vehicles have been destroyed by Iraqi fighters, and the coalition forces entered but been repelled from Um-Qasr.

Iraqi government puts a bounty of 50 million dinars ($33,000) for capture, 25 million dinars for the killing of each "mercenary".

  • Parts of the city of Basrah are entered by the British.
  • A hand grenade attack on a rear base of the 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait caused the death of one soldier and injuries to 13 others.[3] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11541-2003Mar22). An American soldier was arrested for the attack. [4] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12212-2003Mar22)
  • Two Royal Navy H-3 Sea King helicopters collide in mid-air over the Gulf killing seven crew. Both craft were based on the HMS Ark Royal (R07).

March 23, 2003

USA and British forces succeeded in taking the airport outside of Basra, and are in battle with Iraqi forces for control of the city itself.

US Marines battle Iraqi forces near the city of Nassiriya, a key crossing of the Euphrates River about 225 miles southeast of Baghdad.

A British Tornado fighter airplane was hit by an American Patriot missile resulting in the death of the two British pilots.

Media report about pictures of British and American soldiers wounded and killed by Iraqi forces, as shown by the Arabian Al Jazeera TV network.

In greater detail 16 American soldiers are missing, 5 of them were shown on Iraqi state TV as POWs and at least 4 were shown dead in what appeared to be a hospital room.

In another incident about 10 US Marines were confirmed to be killed, when they run into an ambush. CNN has shown pictures of two USMC armormed personell carriers and a number of other vehicles destroyed.

The British TV network ITV reports that its reporter Terry Lloyd was killed yesterday near Basra. Some media sources assume that he was killed by US or British soldiers shooting at Iraqi soldiers in cars next to his car.

  • Continued battle around the Iraqi cities of Basra and Nassiriya.
  • Iraq reports that it captured a number of American prisoners of war. The United States Military states that 12 mechanics were missing. A videotape of the captives and dead mechanics was released that show possible torture and execution-style killings. US officials charge that Iraqi treatment of the captives violates the Geneva Convention.
  • A RAF Panavia Tornado is brought down by "friendly fire" by a US Patriot missile battery.
  • Coalition forces took control of a large complex of buildings in the An Najaf province near the city of Najaf. Some news sources have proclaimed that this is a "huge chemical weapons plant" [5] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,81935,00) but Pentagon officials have called such announcements "premature" and say that no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found [6] (http://www.spacewar.com/2003/030324015210.vbav5l7z).

  • In Belgium legal complaints are filed against American officals for "crimes against humanity." It was reported that an Iraqi representing seven families deposited complaints for violation of human rights against former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf in Belgium. Supported by a socialist deputy and a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Iraqis denounce the bombing of a shelter which had made 403 civil victims in Baghdad in February 1991 during the Gulf War. This is made possible by the Belgian law of universal competence, which provides justice on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and can apply to any nationalities. Colin Powell indicated the event was a "serious problem", affecting the ability to go to Belgium, in particular to NATO in Brussels. Colin Powell stated this law was a subject of worry. [7] (http://www.lemonde.fr/recherche_articleweb/1,9687,313588,00?query=belgique&query2=&booleen=et&num_page=1&auteur=&dans=dansarticle&periode=7&ordre=pertinence&debutjour=&debutmois=&debutannee=&finjour=&finmois=&finannee=&G_NBARCHIVES=767+809)

March 24, 2003 An operation of about 30 attack helicopters against the Medina Division of Iraq's Republican guard, entrenched in the Karbala area, has taken place during the early hours of March 24. One US Apache helicopter which was captured by Iraqi civilians, along with its two crew members, appeared later in Arab satellite chanels. A CNN embedded reporter with a helicopter unit that participated in the raid, also reported the destruction of another helicopter and that helicopters were under heavy fire, with only two of them managing to achieve their objectives. Its crew however was safely recovered.

China has given the United States the address of its embassy in Baghdad in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the deadly 1999 bombing of its mission in Belgrade, diplomatic sources said on Monday. China passed on the details of its Iraq mission, at around the time US-led coalition aircraft started dropping bombs in and around Baghdad, to prevent any repeat of the 1999 bombing Washington said happened because of outdated maps, they said. [8] (http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/03/24/china.embassy.reut/)

Five people, including one woman, were killed when a missile fell on their houses in a populated district in the west of Baghdad.

Tensions increase between the United States and Russia. The United States charged the Russians of supposed deliveries of Russian weapons in Iraq. The spokesman of the American President, Ari Fleischer, rejected denials of Moscow and assured that Washington has "evidence" of these deliveries, which could give the Iraqis invaluable assets against the Anglo-American forces. Devices listed are binoculars for night vision, GPS units, and anti-tank missiles. Ari Fleischer said the American governemnent ask the Russians to immediately put an end to its assistance. It reminded them that the deliveries of this type of materials and equipment in Iraq were the subject of sanctions by the United Nations. The Russian government and the companies mentioned as having delivered armaments to Iraq have rejected these allegations on Monday, describing them as "inventions" and reaffirming that Moscow strictly respected the embargo imposed by UNO in Baghdad. Russian president Vladimir Putin rejected the American charges himself during a telephone conversation with George W. Bush, the Presidential press secretary indicated Tuesday, quoted by the Interfax agency.

  • The Arab League voted 21-1 in favor of a resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of U.S. and British soldiers from Iraq. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Kuwait. [9] (http://www.brunei-online.com/bb/wed/mar26w32.htm)

March 25, 2003

Coalition forces begin fighting Iraqi militia in Basra, second largest city in Iraq. British soldiers report that the Shiite population of Basra appears to be rebelling against the Iraqi militia. The anti-Saddam resistance group based in Iran, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq[?], confirmed that the Shiite revolt was taking place in Basra. According to some sources, the Iraqi militia forces are attacking the local Basra civilians, attempting to stop the revolt, with artillery and mortars. The Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf[?] denied that any uprising was taking place in Basra.

The Red Cross warned that a humanitarian crisis was emerging in the city. The Red Cross, Save the Children and other organizations are attempting to reach the city. Kuwait also has a caravan of supply trucks heading north into Iraq. Coalition forces announced that the port city of Umm Qasr was now "safe and open" and divers began searching for mines off shore. Once the waters are clear, British ships, which are waiting off of the Iraqi coast, will land in Umm Qasr with additional medicine, food and water for the area. Coalition forces had a small supply of food and water that they began to pass out to the citizens of Umm Qasr.

While fighting in Nasiriya, coalition forces discovered and confiscated weapons caches and gear to protect against chemical weapons, including a T-55 tank, over 3,000 chemical suits with masks, and Iraqi munitions and military uniforms. All of this equipment was hidden in a Nasiriya hospital.

  • U.S. forces are advancing on Baghdad, hampered by extreme dust storms.
  • Thousands of chemical suits as well as a tank and a large stockpile of weapons are reportedly found by coalition forces in the An Nasiriyah hospital in Iraq. Coalition forces entered the hospital after being fired upon by Iraqi soldiers hiding in the building.[10] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,82182,00) U.S. officials report the possibility that chemical weapons would be deployed on coalition troops as they approach Baghdad. [11] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,82145,00)
  • British forces report what they believe to be a popular uprising in the city of Basra that provoked Iraqi troops to fire-up civilians with mortars. British troops then shelled the mortar position. [12] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,82088,00)
  • According to a U.S. officer, approximately 650 Iraqis were killed around Najaf "in the last twenty-four hours" while the American forces would not have, on their side, recorded any victim. This assessment, not confirmed by any independent source, could be the heaviest since the beginning of the offensive, the Thursday prior.

March 26, 2003

The American central command in Qatar admitted Wednesday to have carried out bombardments which could have killed civilians due to the fact that Iraqi military assests were being placed close to civilian areas (within 300 feet in some cases). This occurred a few hours after two explosions occurred in on a commercial street of Baghdad which killed 14 Iraqi civilians and injured thirty more, according to Iraqi civil defense. Also on this day special units of the Iraqi Republican Guard, for the first time, took part in the fights against the American and British forces. Just after the marketplace explosions in Baghdad, Russia called for "the immediate end of the war against Iraq" and discussions to resume within the Security Council.

March 27, 2003

March 28, 2003

  • Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution allowing the resumption of the program Oil-for-Food, suspended on March 18 and upon which depends the subsistence on 60 % of the Iraqi population. The Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan underlined that this vote should not be confused with a recognition of the war carried out and with a way to legitimize the military action afterwards. The resolution makes clear that the chief responsibility for addressing humanitarian consequences of the war would fall to the United States and Britain if they take control of the country. This refers to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines the responsibilities of the occupying power.
  • US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria of supplying arms and material to Iraq; Syria denied these allegations.
  • The first coalition forces humanitarian aid ship, the RFA Sir Galahad, is preparing to dock at the port of Umm Qasr in Iraq at 11.45 GMT.
  • The Lebanon TV network al-Minar[?] crew say they found about 40 dead bodies of U.S. soldiers in the desert outside Maseriah[?]. They accuse the U.S. of destroying all their equipment after they noticed the U.S. of the finding. [13] (http://www.khilafah.com/home/category.php?DocumentID=6649&TagID=2)

March 29, 2003

  • The Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf accused the US forces of killing 140 civilians during the last 24 hours and denied allegations that Iraqi soldiers are disguising themselves as civilians.
  • An explosion damaged a shopping center in Kuwait City before dawn. Initial reports suggested the cause was a malfunctioning U.S. cruise missile, but later reports focused on an Iraqi Silkworm missile as being responsible. No injuries are reported.
  • A Iraqi military suicide bomber, driving a taxi, killed four US soldiers in an attack. "We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said, "This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later."

March 31, 2003

  • US troops kill 7 civilians including women and children in a car whose driver refuses to stop at a checkpoint. According to one account the driver ignored several warning shots, as well as gunfire into the vehicle's engine. According to another account, no warning shots were fired. [14] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61229-2003Mar31)
  • Journalist Peter Arnett is fired by NBC after giving an interview to Iraqi television, which some considered as unfairly critical of the Bush administration's war on Iraq. Later in the day, Arnett is hired by a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror.
  • The Pentagon orders embedded FOX News reporter Geraldo Rivera from its troops and demands him to leave Iraq after accusing him of reporting United States troop positions.

April 1, 2003

A 32-year-old Iraqi lawyer, whose wife worked as a nurse at a hospital in Nasiriyah, risks his life to help coalition forces rescue prisoner of war Private First Class Jessica Lynch. The lawyer witnessed Lynch being tortured and decided to help her. The man immediately began searching for coalition forces to tell them about Lynch. Black Hawk[?] helicopters flew in under cover of darkness, touched down next to the hospital, and a team of heavily-armed commandos stormed the building, using hand-drawn maps given to them by the lawyer and his wife. Lynch was successfully rescued and the lawyer and his family were flown to a refugee center in the southern port city of Umm Qasr.

The military did not confirm the Iraqi lawyer's involvement.

April 2, 2003

U.S. forces reach the outskirts of Baghdad and encounter fierce fighting from small units of Iraqi Republican Guard.

Kurdish militia, aided by U.S. forces, move into Kanilan[?] near Mosul in Northern Iraq. Citizens living in the town tell reporters that they are happy that the Iraqi soldiers are gone.

April 3, 2003

U.S. forces take control of Saddam International Airport, in southern Baghdad.

April 4, 2003

MSNBC finds evidence of the deadly toxins ricin, and botulinum[?] at a laboratory in northern Iraq, used as a training camp for Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network. The tests conducted by MSNBC were the same type of tests used by U.N. weapons inspectors. U.S. officials said that they planned on conducting their own tests of the area.

U.S. forces search the Latifiyah Explosives and Ammunition Plant, south of Baghdad, and discover thousands of boxes full of vials of a white powdery substance, atropine (a nerve agent antidote) and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare. Early reports suggest that the powdery substance is an explosive, although additonal tests are needed. Some vials contained a liquid. The facility had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons site. U.N. weapons inspectors visited the plant at least nine times, including as recently as February 18, 2003.

Later tests show no forbidden weaponry.

April 8, 2003 U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reiterates a statement he made on March 31 that only the UN IAEA has a mandate to search out and destroy any nuclear weapons or parts of a nuclear weapons program found in Iraq. [15] (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030416/wl_nm/iraq_nuclear_inspections_dc_2)

  • Journalist deaths by U.S. fire: Two of American air to surface missiles[?] hit the Qatar satellite station Al Jazeera's office in Baghdad and kill a reporter and wound a cameraman. The nearby office of Arab satellite channel Abu Dhabi is also hit by air strikes. Al Jazeera accuses the U.S. of attacking Arab media to hide facts. On the same day a U.S. army tank fires into the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel[?] in Baghdad, where almost all foreign journalists base on, and kills two cameramen and wounds three. In the Abu Dhabi case the station airs the picture of Iraqi fire from beneath of the camera. In the hotel case, however, other journalists on the scene deny any fire from or around the hotel. [16] (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/08/international/worldspecial/08CND-CAMERAMAN), [17] (http://www.asahi.com/international/update/0408/024), [18] (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=1503&ncid=1503&e=1&u=/afp/20030408/ts_afp/iraq_war_baghdad_media_030408165654)

April 9, 2003

  • Baghdad falls to U.S. forces. Some Iraqis cheer in the streets after American infantrymen seize deserted Ba'ath Party ministries and pull down a huge iron statue of Saddam Hussein, ending his 24-year rule of Iraq. Looting of government offices breaks out and Hussein's fighting forces melt away in large portions of the city. [19] (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030410-71572160.htm) [20] (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/04/09/MN249161.DTL)

April 10, 2003

  • Kurdish troops occupy the city of Kirkuk in Iraq with little resistance. [21] (http://www.canada.com/news/story.asp?id=45D53827-FA52-4452-9E87-7DF9276D26B9)

April 12, 2003 The looting and unrest, especially in major cities Baghdad and Basra are becoming a very serious issue. In Baghdad, with the notable exception of the Oil Ministry, which was guarded by American troops, the majority of government and public buildings were totally plundered, to the point there were nothing of any value left. This includes the National Museum of Iraq as well as most major hospitals. The damages of the wave of plunders to the Iraqi civilian infrastructure, economy and cultural inheritance, are getting higher than those from three weeks of U.S. bombing.

April 13, 2003 Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, and the last town not under control of the coalition, was taken by American marines. Perhaps to the surprise of many, there was little resistance.

April 15, 2003 With the fall of the Tikrit region, the coalition partners declared the war effectively over. [22] (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/15/1050172602254)

Continued at 2003 occupation of Iraq timeline.

External links

Collections of news reports:

  • BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2002/conflict_with_iraq/default.stm)
  • CNN (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/)
  • The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/0,2759,423009,00)
  • Indymedia (http://www.indymedia.org/)
  • iraqwar.ru (http://www1.iraqwar.ru/?userlang=en)
  • Reuters news agency (http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsHome.jhtml?type=focusIraqNews)

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