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B-1 ordered to strike leadership target quickly

Four bombs hit building where Saddam may have been

Rubble
People crawl over rubble in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood after Monday's strike.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A B-1 bomber patrolling Baghdad Monday was ordered to hit a "priority leadership target" quickly and launch specially designed bombs on a building where Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was thought to be, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Acting on directives from forward air controllers, the U.S. warplane dropped four 2,000-pound bombs at 3 p.m. Monday (7 a.m. EST) in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood.

Mansour is the same area where Saddam -- or a body double -- was shown working a crowd Friday on Arab TV networks. The houses hit in the strike were not near the parts of Mansour pictured on the tape, sources told CNN.

Sources said the explosion killed nine people, wounded 13 and destroyed apartments and a nearby restaurant. U.S. officials said they do not know whether Saddam or his two sons, Uday and Qusay, also suspected to have been in the building, died in the strike.

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Members of the B-1 crew told reporters Tuesday that they were patrolling the Iraqi capital when they were informed about the leadership target. They reached the target 12 minutes later and unleashed a payload designed to limit damage in an urban setting, the crew said.

Some of the intelligence about the target came from an eyewitness, sources said, who said he thought he saw Saddam and one or more of his sons go into the building.

The bombs hit the building 45 minutes after that information was initially received, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said at Tuesday's Pentagon briefing.

"Those were the words that were used when we got passed those coordinates: 'This is the big one,'" said Lt. Col. Fred Swann, the weapons officer onboard the B-1 bomber. (3-D model)

"When they said 'priority leadership target,' it's anybody who is in the regime," Swann said.

"That's the first time I have ever been on a crew that got the priority target," he said, adding that the crew did not know precisely who it was targeting, "but I knew it was important, so we went and did our job."

The first two bombs punched through the structure. Then the bomber's crew released two more bombs, equipped with a 25-millisecond fuse delay -- a mechanism known as a "bunker buster," which allows munitions to burrow deep into a target before exploding.

All four bombs were GBU-31s -- 2,000-pound MK 84 munitions with JDAM guidance kits attached. A Joint Direct Attack Munition kit converts an unguided bomb into a precision munition using global positioning system satellites to navigate the bomb to its target.

"We believe that the attack was effective in causing destruction of that facility." Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said at a U.S. Central Command briefing Tuesday. "As to who was inside and what their conditions are, it will take some time before we can make that full determination."

A senior Bush administration official said the strike was "very much the same" as the initial "decapitation attack" aimed at Saddam and other top government officials at the war's onset.

As then, Saddam's fate is clouded by the extensive system of deep, hardened bunkers that exist under Baghdad -- tunnels that, U.S. officials said, may have survived Monday's strike.

U.S. intelligence agents will analyze radio intercepts and other information for any clues about the Iraqi leader's condition or whereabouts, Pentagon officials said.


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