Timeline of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
- Protests take place around the world. In Australia, a "NO WAR" slogan was painted on the Sydney Opera House by protesters. This comes as Australia's Prime Minister John Howard announced he would commit troops to any American-led war against Iraq. A former Navy officer burned his uniform outside Australia's Parliament House. In Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had red paint hurled at him for his pro-US stance shortly before a press conference. In the United Kingdom, Tony Blair survives a rebellion within his own party to win parliamentary support of war actions in Iraq. 159 Labor MPs voted against the government.
- At approximately 02:30 UTC, or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the U.S. 48-hour deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq, at 5:30 am local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad. According to The Pentagon, 36 Tomahawk missiles and two F-117 launched GBU-27 bombs were used in this assault. The targets were high-level Iraqi governmental officials, including Saddam Hussein himself, and were based on specific intelligence which led the U.S. government to believe it knew his movements. Civilian buildings were also hit. Later, on May 29, CBS Evening News reports that the bunker never existed.
- At 03:15 UTC, or 10:15 p.m. EST, President George W. Bush stated that he had ordered the coalition to launch an "attack of opportunity" against specified targets in Iraq. The military action was dubbed "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
- Iraqi state television broadcast an address by Saddam Hussein. The U.S. and UK analysed the footage closely because they believed one of his body doubles may have been used, but the U.S. eventually said it believed the address was indeed delivered by Saddam Hussein himself. It has not yet been ascertained when the address was recorded, however. Speculation started of the possible death of Saddam Hussein. However, they were false.
- It was later announced that Special Forces troops were operating inside Iraq; Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. all had Special Forces troops in the area. Soon after the strike on Baghdad, Iraq launched a number of missiles at targets in Kuwait, including the coalition forces stationed there. 2-3 scud missiles were also intercepted. The coalition reported that they caused no damage. Later in the day, both UK and U.S. ground troops moved into the demilitarized zone between Iraq and its neighbor, Kuwait, and then into Iraq itself. During the night, 12 British military personnel and four American troops were killed when a transport helicopter crashed, (March 21).
- Airstrikes on Baghdad continued, with the attacks now concentrated on the city's outskirts.
- Around midnight UTC (early morning local time), reports said that 1,500 Turkish troops had moved into northern Iraq. The intervention of Turkish troops had been opposed by the U.S. German government has announced that it will call back the German AWACS personnel watching NATO airspace above Turkey if Turkish troops engage in fights in northern Iraq. Turkey later denied they’d moved troops into Iraq.
- At 1:15 UTC, a collision of two Royal Navy Westland Sea King helicopters based on HMS Ark Royal (R07) over the Persian Gulf kills six British personnel and one American.
- At 10:00 UTC, it was reported that U.S. forces were attempting to occupy the city of Basra, and were involved in a major tank battle on the western side of the city.
- Kurdish officials report a US missile attack on territory held by the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam.
- According to Iraqi government reports, there were two civilians killed and 207 wounded, mostly women and children. There have been no defections or surrenders of Iraqi troops, and western footage to the contrary is showing kidnapped Iraqi civilians. Five US tanks and numerous vehicles have been destroyed by Iraqi fighters, and the coalition forces entered but been repelled from Umm Qasr. The Iraqi government put a bounty of 50 million dinars ($33,000) for capture, 25 million dinars for the killing of each "mercenary".
- Parts of the city of Basra are entered by the British.
- A hand grenade attack on a rear base of the 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait caused the death of Capt. Chris Seifert of the Army and Maj. Gregory Stone of the Air Force and injuries to 14 others. An American soldier, Sgt. Hasan Akbar was arrested for the attack.
- USA and British forces succeeded in taking the airport outside of Basra, and battled with Iraqi forces for control of the city itself.
- US Marines battled Iraqi forces near the city of Nassiriya, a key crossing of the Euphrates about 225 miles (362 km) southeast of Baghdad.
- Media report about pictures of British and American soldiers wounded and killed by Iraqi forces, as shown by the Arabian Al Jazeera TV network.
- Sixteen Americans were missing; five of them were shown on Iraqi state TV as POWs and at least four were shown dead in what appeared to be a hospital room.
- In another incident about 10 US Marines were confirmed to be killed, when they ran into an ambush during the Battle of Nasiriyah.
- Continued battle around the Iraqi cities of Basra and Nassiriya.
- Iraq reports that it captured a number of American prisoners of war. The United States Military states that 12 mechanics were missing. A videotape of the captives and dead mechanics was released that show possible torture and execution-style killings. US officials charge that Iraqi treatment of the captives violates the Geneva Convention.
- A RAF Panavia Tornado is brought down by "friendly fire" by a US Patriot missile battery.
- Coalition forces took control of a large complex of buildings in An Najaf Province near the city of Najaf. Some news sources proclaimed that this was a "huge chemical weapons plant"  but Pentagon officials called such announcements "premature" and said that no weapons of mass destruction had yet been found.
- In Belgium legal complaints are filed against American officials for "crimes against humanity". It was reported that an Iraqi representing seven families deposited complaints for violation of human rights against former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf in Belgium. Supported by a socialist deputy and a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Iraqis denounce the bombing of a shelter which had made 403 civil victims in Baghdad in February 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. This is made possible by the Belgian law of universal competence, which provides justice on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and can apply to any nationalities. Colin Powell indicated the event was a "serious problem", affecting the ability to go to Belgium, in particular to NATO in Brussels. Colin Powell stated this law was a subject of worry.
- An operation of about 30 attack helicopters against the Medina Division of Iraq's Republican guard, entrenched in the Karbala area, has taken place during the early hours of March 24. One US Apache helicopter which was captured by Iraqi civilians, along with its two crew members, appeared later in Arab satellite channels. A CNN embedded reporter with a helicopter unit that participated in the raid reported the destruction of another helicopter and that helicopters were under heavy fire, with only two of them managing to achieve their objectives. Its crew was later safely recovered.
- China gave the United States the address of its embassy in Baghdad in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the deadly US bombing of the People's Republic of China embassy in Belgrade.
- Five people, including one woman, were killed when a missile fell on their houses in a populated district in the west of Baghdad.
- The United States charged the Russians with supposed deliveries of weapons to Iraq. The spokesman of the American President, Ari Fleischer, rejected denials of Moscow and assured that Washington has "evidence" of these deliveries, which could give the Iraqis invaluable assets against the Anglo-American forces. Devices listed are binoculars for night vision, GPS units, and anti-tank missiles. Ari Fleischer said the American government asked the Russians to immediately put an end to its assistance.
The Russian government and the companies mentioned as having delivered armaments to Iraq have rejected these allegations on Monday, describing them as "inventions" and reaffirming that Moscow strictly respected the embargo imposed by UNO in Baghdad. Russian president Vladimir Putin rejected the American charges himself during a telephone conversation with George W. Bush, the Presidential press secretary indicated Tuesday, quoted by the Interfax agency.
- The Arab League voted 21-1 in favor of a resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of U.S. and British soldiers from Iraq. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Kuwait.
- Saddam gives a televised address on Iraqi state television:
O brave fighters, hit your enemy with all your strength. O Iraqis, fight with the strength of the spirit of jihad which you carry in you and push them to the point where they cannot go on.
- Coalition forces begin fighting Iraqi militia in Basra, second largest city in Iraq. British soldiers reported that the Shiite population of Basra appeared to be rebelling against the Iraqi militia. The anti-Saddam resistance group based in Iran, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, confirmed that the Shiite revolt was taking place in Basra. According to some sources, the Iraqi militia forces were attacking the local Basra civilians, attempting to stop the revolt, with artillery and mortars. The Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed al-Sahhaf denied that any uprising was taking place in Basra.
The Red Cross warned that a humanitarian crisis was emerging in the city. The Red Cross, Save the Children and other organizations are attempting to reach the city. Kuwait also has a caravan of supply trucks heading north into Iraq. Coalition forces announced that the port city of Umm Qasr was now "safe and open" and divers began searching for mines off shore. Once the waters are clear, British ships, which are waiting off of the Iraqi coast, will land in Umm Qasr with additional medicine, food and water for the area. Coalition forces had a small supply of food and water that they began to pass out to the citizens of Umm Qasr.
While fighting in Nasiriya, coalition forces discovered and confiscated weapons caches and gear to protect against chemical weapons, including a T-55 tank, over 3,000 chemical suits with masks, and Iraqi munitions and military uniforms. All of this equipment was hidden in a Nasiriya hospital.
- U.S. forces are advancing on Baghdad, hampered by extreme dust storms.
- Thousands of chemical suits as well as a tank and a large stockpile of weapons are reportedly found by coalition forces in the An Nasiriyah hospital in Iraq. Coalition forces entered the hospital after being fired upon by Iraqi soldiers hiding in the building. U.S. officials report the possibility that chemical weapons would be deployed on coalition troops as they approach Baghdad. 
- British forces report what they believe to be a popular uprising in the city of Basra that provoked Iraqi troops to fire-on civilians with mortars. British troops then shelled the mortar position. 
- According to a U.S. officer, approximately 650 Iraqis were killed around Najaf "in the last twenty-four hours" while the American forces would not have, on their side, recorded any casualties. This assessment, not confirmed by any independent source, could be the heaviest since the beginning of the offensive, the Thursday prior.
- The American central command in Qatar admitted Wednesday to have carried out bombardments which could have killed civilians because Iraqi military assets were being placed close to civilian areas - within 300 feet (100 m) in some cases. This occurred a few hours after two explosions occurred in on a commercial street of Baghdad which killed 14 Iraqi civilians and injured thirty more, according to Iraqi civil defense. Also on this day special units of the Iraqi Republican Guard, for the first time, took part in the fights against the American and British forces. Just after the marketplace explosions in Baghdad, Russia called for "the immediate end of the war against Iraq" and discussions to resume within the Security Council.
- 954 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, commanded by COL William C. Mayville, conducted a combat jump into Northern Iraq onto Bashur Airfield. The mission was to secure a northern front to air-land ground units including armor and logistical assets. The paratroopers also facilitated Special Operations Forces (SOF) already active in the areas north of Kirkuk and Mosul.
- Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution allowing the resumption of the Oil for Food program, suspended on March 18 and upon which depends the subsistence on 60% of the Iraqi population. The Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan underlined that this vote should not be confused with a recognition of the war carried out and with a way to legitimize the military action afterwards. The resolution makes clear that the chief responsibility for addressing humanitarian consequences of the war would fall to the United States and Britain if they take control of the country. This refers to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines the responsibilities of the occupying power.
- US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria of supplying arms and material to Iraq; Syria denied these allegations.
- The first coalition forces humanitarian aid ship, the RFA Sir Galahad, is preparing to dock at the port of Umm Qasr in Iraq at 11.45 GMT.
- The Lebanon TV network al-Minar crew say they found about 40 dead bodies of U.S. soldiers in the desert outside Maseriah. They accuse the U.S. of destroying all their equipment after they notified the U.S. of the finding. 
- The Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf accused the US forces of killing 140 civilians during the last 24 hours and denied allegations that Iraqi soldiers are disguising themselves as civilians.
- An explosion damaged a shopping center in Kuwait City before dawn. Initial reports suggested the cause was a malfunctioning U.S. cruise missile, but later reports focused on an Iraqi Silkworm missile as being responsible. No injuries are reported.
- An Iraqi military suicide bomber, driving a taxi, killed four US soldiers in an attack.
- US troops kill 7 civilians including women and children in a car whose driver refuses to stop at a checkpoint. According to one account the driver ignored several warning shots, as well as gunfire into the vehicle's engine.
- Journalist Peter Arnett is fired by NBC after giving an interview to Iraqi television, which some considered as unfairly critical of the Bush administration's war on Iraq. Later in the day, Arnett is hired by a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror.
- The Pentagon orders embedded Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera from its troops and demands him to leave Iraq after accusing him of reporting United States troop positions.
- U.S. forces reach the outskirts of Baghdad and encounter fierce fighting from small units of Iraqi Republican Guard.
- Kurdish militia, aided by U.S. forces, move into Kanilan near Mosul in Northern Iraq. Citizens living in the town tell reporters that they are happy that the Iraqi soldiers are gone.
- U.S. forces take control of Saddam International Airport, in southern Baghdad; renaming the airport to Baghdad International Airport.
- MSNBC finds evidence of the deadly toxins ricin, and botulinum at a laboratory in northern Iraq, used as a training camp for Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network. The tests conducted by MSNBC were the same type of tests used by U.N. weapons inspectors. U.S. officials said that they planned on conducting their own tests of the area.
- U.S. forces search the Latifiyah Explosives and Ammunition Plant, south of Baghdad, and discover thousands of boxes full of vials of a white powdery substance, atropine (a nerve agent antidote) and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare. Early reports suggest that the powdery substance is an explosive, although additional tests are needed. Some vials contained a liquid. The facility had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons site. U.N. weapons inspectors visited the plant at least nine times, including as recently as February 18. Later tests show no forbidden weaponry.
- Basra becomes the first major city to fall to coalition forces when it comes under British control
- U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reiterates a statement he made on March 31 that only the UN IAEA has a mandate to search out and destroy any nuclear weapons or parts of a nuclear weapons program found in Iraq. 
- Journalist deaths by U.S. fire: Two of American air to surface missiles hit Al Jazeera's office in Baghdad and kill a reporter and wound a cameraman. The nearby office of Arab satellite channel Abu Dhabi is also hit by air strikes. Al Jazeera accuses the U.S. of attacking Arab media to hide facts. On the same day a U.S. M1 Abrams main battle tank fires into the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where almost all foreign journalists base on, and kills two cameramen and wounds three. In the Abu Dhabi case the station airs the picture of Iraqi fire from beneath of the camera. In the hotel case, however, other journalists on the scene deny any fire from or around the hotel.,
- Baghdad falls to U.S. forces. Some Iraqis cheer in the streets after American infantrymen seize deserted Ba'ath Party ministries and pull down a huge iron statue of Saddam Hussein, ending his 24-year rule of Iraq. Looting of government offices breaks out and Hussein's fighting forces melt away in large portions of the city. 
- The looting and unrest, especially in major cities Baghdad and Basra are becoming a very serious issue. In Baghdad, with the notable exception of the Oil Ministry, which was guarded by American troops, the majority of government and public buildings were totally plundered, to the point there were nothing of any value left. This includes the National Museum of Iraq (initial reports that 170,000 artifacts had been lost were overblown, with losses ultimately determined to be around 15,000 items) as well as most major hospitals. The damages of the wave of plunders to the Iraqi civilian infrastructure, economy and cultural inheritance, are getting higher than those from three weeks of U.S. bombing.
- Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, and the last town not under control of the coalition, was taken by the Marines of Task Force Tripoli. Perhaps to the surprise of many, there was little resistance.
- U.S. president George W. Bush announces, from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
- Timeline of the Iraq War
- Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 2001-2003
- Preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq
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Collections of news reports: