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Bunker-buster dropped on Baghdad

Ahmed, father of Ali Ahmed, 22, weeps upon learning of his son's death at a Baghdad hospital
Ahmed, father of Ali Ahmed, 22, weeps upon learning of his son's death at a Baghdad hospital

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CAMP DAVID, Maryland (CNN) -- The United States has dropped two 4,500-pound GBU-37 "bunker-buster" bombs on a target in Baghdad, shaking a large area and creating a large plume of smoke that rose over the city center.

It marked the first time the bombs have been used in this war.

Pentagon sources said a U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber dropped the satellite-guided bombs at around 11 p.m. Thursday local time (2000 GMT).

U.S. Central Command said a B-2 Spirit "targeted and struck a major link in Iraq's national communication network" located on the east bank of the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad.

"The strike with two precision-guided munitions was to degrade the ability of the Hussein regime to command and control the actions of Iraq's military forces," Central Command said in a statement.

It did not specify what type of bombs were used in one of the heaviest bombardments on Baghdad seen in the course of this war.

Iraq's International Communications Center, which operates Iraq's phone system, was ablaze after it was pounded in the strike late Thursday.

Baghdad residents told Reuters news service the Al Salam presidential palace was among the targets struck. The palace was bombed last week. Residents also told Reuters some military positions on the eastern and southern perimeter of the city had been targeted.

The use of increasingly powerful bombs comes as the United States announces it will send 120,000 additional troops to the Persian Gulf for a war U.S. President George W. Bush said will last "however long it takes to win."

Twenty thousand troops from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division will leave Fort Hood, Texas, for Iraq in the next few days, and another 100,000 ground troops have received deployment orders and will head to the Persian Gulf region next month, Pentagon officials said.

Speaking after a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the president's Camp David retreat in Maryland, Bush said President Saddam Hussein would be removed from power.

And despite stronger than expected resistance from Iraqi troops and paramilitary fighters, defense officials tell CNN that there are no plans to change the coalition's strategy.

Iraq's information minister said Thursday Baghdad would be the "graveyard" of coalition forces and they would lose "even if they bring double American troops." (Full story)

Elsewhere, the U.S. military began building up its northern front in Iraq Thursday, after dropping 1,000 paratroopers into the region to secure a key airfield in the country's Kurdish-controlled zone. (Full story)

Bush and Blair have called on the United Nations to immediately resume the oil-for-food program in Iraq after meeting privately to discuss the Iraq situation. More than half Iraq's citizens depend on the program for food, Bush said. (Full Story)

The delivery of humanitarian aid to the port of Umm Qasr in the south was delayed another day when British mine-clearing teams discovered two more mines outside the main shipping channel. Britain's RFA Sir Galahad is filled with more than 200 tons of supplies. (Full story)

The Iraqi death toll now stands at more than 350, the country's health minister Umid Midhat Mubarak said Thursday, with a further 4,000 civilians injured. ('Civilians targeted')

In London British military officials said Thursday they found chemical weapons protection suits when Iraqi infantry abandoned a headquarters facility in the oil fields of southern Iraq. Adm. Sir Michael Boyce, the chief of British Defence Staff, told a news conference. (Full story)

But he added that British troops did not find any weapons of mass destruction.

Other developments

• Waves of B-52 bombers pounded a convoy of some 1,000 Iraqi military vehicles overnight before they could reach U.S. Army troops in Najaf, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, CNN's Walter Rodgers reported Thursday.

• Coalition officials said Thursday said that pro-Saddam forces in Najaf and Basra are threatening Iraqis with death if they don't pick up arms against U.S.-led forces.

• At Kalak, coalition air forces dropped at least three large bombs on Iraqi positions Thursday morning, near the line of demarcation between the Kurdish zone and territory controlled by the Iraqi regime, CNN's Ben Wedeman says.

• A British military spokesman said Thursday that the two men shown on an Arab television network Wednesday who were purported to be British prisoners of war are not soldiers and may have been on a humanitarian mission inside Iraq.

• A top U.S. military official accused Iraqi forces of committing war crimes by executing prisoners of war, using civilians as human shields and hiding command posts in hospitals. (Full story)

• Forty-seven U.S. and British military personnel have been confirmed killed since the conflict began. (Coalition casualties)

CNN Correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jason Bellini, Tom Mintier, Steve Nettleton, Karl Penhaul, Nic Robertson, Walter Rodgers, Brent Sadler, Martin Savidge, Kevin Sites, Barbara Starr and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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