Baghdad in flames after battering

America tonight unleashed its promised war of "shock and awe" launching a massive aerial bombardment into Iraq.Cruise missiles and air-launched guided bombs rained down on targets in Baghdad and across the country in an assault intended to paralyse the Iraqi military and force Saddam Hussein into submission.

America tonight unleashed its promised war of "shock and awe" launching a massive aerial bombardment into Iraq.

Cruise missiles and air-launched guided bombs rained down on targets in Baghdad and across the country in an assault intended to paralyse the Iraqi military and force Saddam Hussein into submission.

Fires raged across the Iraqi capital, with Saddam's "Old Palace' compound, the main seat of government, among the targets reported hit at the start of "A Day' - marking the beginning of the air war.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers told a Pentagon news conference that "several hundred targets' would be attacked during the course of the night.


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The attacks were thought to involve RAF aircraft and Royal Navy submarines firing cruise missiles as well as US aircraft and warships.

They came at the end of a day of rapid advances by British and US ground forces which took them to the gates of Iraq's second city Basra.

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US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the air attacks would be of a "scope and scale which made it clear to Iraqis that Saddam and his regime were finished.

"The regime is starting to lose control of the country,' he said.

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