03/31 - Bombers strike Baghdad command centers - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

03/31 - Bombers strike Baghdad command centers

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003 8:09 am | Updated: 1:54 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An armada of B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers struck communication and command centers in Baghdad, and cruise missiles set Iraq's Information Ministry ablaze Monday in the second such attack on the building in two days.

The fire, yards away from a shopping mall named for Saddam Hussein's birthday, was put out after a half-hour.

Recorded calls of "God is great" from mosque minarets alerted the people of Baghdad to another night of bombings late Sunday, followed by a huge explosion and then the streaks of anti-aircraft tracers across the sky.

In the past few nights, the mosque loudspeakers have been used as air-raid sirens, with the all-clear signaled by another minaret announcement: "God is great, they are gone."

The U.S. Central Command said it was the first time in history that long-range B-1s, B-2s and B-52s had carried out simultaneous attacks on the same location.

The air strike on the Information Ministry shook the city around 2 a.m. Monday and touched off a fire near the 28 April Shopping Center.

The 10-story building remained standing. Windows were gone and the outside walls sustained some damage. Witnesses said the interior, especially on the top floors, was severely damaged.

With coalition forces closing in on Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri warned that the Iraqi people are preparing a "holocaust" for the Americans and the British.

"Every day that passes the United States and Britain are sinking deeper in the mud of defeat," he said. "Those two states have no choice but to withdraw early and fast, today before tomorrow. It is better for them and that will save them more losses."

A Tomahawk missile had hit the Information Ministry building before dawn Saturday, gutting one floor and destroying many of the satellite dishes on the roof. Foreign journalists have been working at the Palestine Hotel, where they had moved for fear of attacks on the ministry.

Coalition bombardments have focused in recent days on Republican Guard units protecting the approaches to Baghdad, in an attempt to wear down Saddam's best-trained forces ahead of a U.S.-led ground assault on the capital.

Earlier Sunday, warplanes bombed the barracks of the main training center of the Iraqi paramilitary forces in eastern Baghdad's Rustamiyah area, and targeted a presidential palace and an intelligence complex, U.S. Central Command said.

Residents and officials in Baghdad said at least four telecommunication installations were hit.

Next door to the demolished telephone office in Baghdad's A'azamiah district, 70-year-old Adel Hussein al-Abdali lamented the damage to his home.

"That Bush is a despicable coward," al-Abdali told a crowd of journalists escorted to the site by the Information Ministry. "But we will be victorious with the help of God."

Early Monday, the coalition bombed another telephone exchange in Baghdad, in the Bab al-Moazim district. The three-story building was heavily damaged, with sections of wall gone, revealing mangled metal and destroyed office furniture and computers. The exchange, which served 25,000 subscribers, was hit in the 1991 Gulf War and rebuilt.

Next door, a 10-story building housing the Baghdad Municipality administration appeared to be unscathed, with even its windows still in place.

Around midafternoon, a low-flying aircraft could be heard over central Baghdad and the sound of two explosions followed. The target was a site on the west bank of the Tigris River. Moments later, a huge cloud of white smoke rose from the spot. The area houses many government departments, presidential compounds and other sensitive sites.

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