Airstrike targets senior Iraqi officials
Official: U.S. 'optimistic' that Saddam was in building
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military dropped a "large amount of ordnance" on a building in a residential neighborhood of Baghdad on Monday based on "time-sensitive intelligence" that some senior Iraqi officials, possibly including Saddam Hussein and his two sons, were there, U.S. officials said early Tuesday.
U.S. Central Command said that at 3 p.m. Monday [7 a.m. EST], a B-1 bomber dropped four 2,000-pound bombs equipped with JDAM guidance systems.
Central Command said the target, a building in the Mansour neighborhood, was destroyed. Before Central Command confirmed the strike, CNN sources said a blast in the neighborhood killed nine people and wounded 13 others. A restaurant and apartments were also reported destroyed.
U.S. officials said they don't know who they might have killed in the attack, but they said they believed that the intelligence -- which U.S. officials received Monday -- was very good. Part of it came from informants.
A senior administration official in Washington said the strike was "very much the same" as the initial "decapitation attack" that began the war and was aimed at Saddam, his two sons and other top government officials.
The official said there was a sense of optimism that top Iraqi figures, perhaps including Saddam and one or both of his sons, were in the building. The official declined to be more specific.
Bombing runs over the capital city continued Tuesday morning, with coalition forces using an A-10 and an F-14, sources told CNN.
Explosions and machine gun fire were heard in Baghdad early Tuesday.
The gunfire came from the direction of a presidential palace, according to a correspondent for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.
Sources in Baghdad told CNN that fighting broke out Tuesday morning at a presidential palace the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry entered Monday. Artillery fire was focused on one building in the compound, sources told CNN correspondent Nic Robertson, who is in Ruwaished, Jordan, on the Iraqi border. (Full story)
The palace is the largest in the city and was the site of a pro-Saddam rally Monday.
U.S. forces took over at least two of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad and were fighting near the hotel and Information Ministry before the rally began. Sources told CNN's Walter Rodgers, who is embedded with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Infantry Division, that three battalions of the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry, plan to stay in Baghdad.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the entry into two of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad sends "an important message, I think, for the regime and the people of Iraq to understand: that this regime is gone."
At the same Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saddam "no longer runs much of Iraq." (Full story)
But standing in the smoke-filled streets of Baghdad on Monday, the ever-defiant Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, refused to acknowledge the U.S. raids even as gunfire could be heard in the distance.
"The soldiers of Saddam Hussein have given them a lesson they will never forget," al-Sahaf said. (Full story)
An Iraqi missile slammed into the tactical operations center for the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, in Baghdad on Monday, killing two U.S. soldiers and two journalists and wounding 15 other people, Rodgers reported. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo said one if its reporters was killed, as was a German photographer. (Full story)
As Army forces moved in from the west, U.S. Marines approached the capital from the east -- and two were killed by Iraqi forces. The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, came under Iraqi mortar and artillery fire as it tried to secure a bridge over a canal near the Tigris River on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the discovery Monday of drums of what might be chemical weapons materials south of the Iraqi capital raised concerns among U.S. officials, who have feared that Iraq might unleash chemical weapons as troops moved into Baghdad, despite the claims of Iraqi officials that their country has no such weapons.
At an agricultural complex in Hindiya near Karbala, about 60 miles [96 kilometers] south of Baghdad, the 101st Airborne Division found what might be a stash of nerve and blister agents hidden inside barrels in underground bunkers. Initial tests at the site indicate the presence of non-weaponized chemical agents, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Freakly said.
The substances might be pesticides, he said. Further tests are being done. (Full story)
Coalition forces to surround other cities
About 25 miles east of Mosul -- the largest Iraqi city remaining under regime control -- coalition forces were approaching the main highway connecting it to Kirkuk, hoping to cut off the two northern cities from each other.
The move comes as coalition forces consolidate positions in an effort to choke off and surround major Iraqi cities, including those in the north.
Defectors say there are no Republican Guard troops operating in northern Iraq, but there has been very active Iraqi artillery resistance during the coalition bombings.
• President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair see an advisory role for the United Nations in a post-Saddam Iraq, a senior Bush administration official told CNN on Monday. (Full story) U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named a special adviser Monday to coordinate with Security Council members on postwar Iraq. "I do expect the U.N. to play an important role," Annan said.
• Rumsfeld said plans for a new Iraqi government are already unfolding, and it will be the Iraqi people who "sort out what the Iraqi government ought to look like." U.S. plans call for a civilian administration, headed by retired Gen. Jay Garner, to help with the transition to a new Iraqi government.
• Abu Dhabi TV said an airstrike hit a building in Baghdad housing Arab media Tuesday morning, and the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera said one of its reporters was wounded.
• The Iraqi National Congress, a group that opposes Saddam's regime, said its forces have joined the military campaign. A unit called the 1st Battalion Free Iraqi Forces, made up of 700 troops, began deployment near Nasiriya in the south, and the number of forces in central and southern Iraq is expected to be swiftly increased.
• Gen. Tommy Franks, in charge of the invasion force now nosing into Baghdad, visited U.S. and British troops inside Iraq for the first time Monday, meeting with top officers, awarding commendations to two U.S. soldiers and saying he was "pretty damned impressed."
• Irregular Iraqi forces, some wearing women's clothing, ambushed a U.S. Marine platoon of light-armored vehicles Monday in the central Iraqi city of Ab Diwaniyah, but the U.S. unit escaped without casualties, Marines in the firefight said.
-- CNN correspondents Jill Dougherty, Art Harris, James Martone, Tom Mintier, Diana Muriel, Walter Rodgers, Brent Sadler, Martin Savidge and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.