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Iraqi missile targeted coalition HQ during war

From Henry Schuster

The attack came as Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, coalition ground forces commander, was meeting with other top military officials.
The attack came as Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, coalition ground forces commander, was meeting with other top military officials.

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CAMP DOHA, Kuwait (CNN) -- The Iraqi military came within seconds of possibly wiping out the headquarters of the coalition ground forces with a missile on March 27, U.S. military officials said. The missile was intercepted and destroyed by a U.S. Patriot missile shortly before it could have hit its target.

A CNN crew embedded at ground forces headquarters witnessed the incident. At the time of the incident, the material from the crew was embargoed under an agreement with the U.S. military until major hostilities in Iraq were over.

"This was Saddam's decapitation strike," said CNN national security analyst Ken Robinson, part of the CNN crew embedded at ground forces headquarters.

"Had anyone reported this -- had we reported it, or had it gotten out -- it would have enabled them to know that they had the exact grid coordinate they needed," Robinson said.

The al-Samoud missile was launched toward Camp Doha from an area just north of Basra.

An analysis of the Iraqi missile's trajectory by the U.S. Army's air defense unit showed it would have landed on or near the building housing the Coalition Forces Land Component Command operations center and war room.

The missile was launched during the middle of the command's morning battlefield update, a time when ground forces commander Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and other top officers were in the building.

A U.S. missile battery crew based across the street from Camp Doha fired two Patriot missile at the Iraqi al-Samoud. One intercepted it.

Most of the debris landed on the edge of Camp Doha, but people working in the building next to the ground forces operations center reported hearing some debris hit their roof.

Capt. Craig Schlozman was the commander of Charlie Battery that fired the two Patriot missiles.

The first, he said, "shot out of the canister and took a sharp left turn -- the second shot out and took a left turn -- three or four seconds later we heard the explosion."

Maj. Gen. William Webster, deputy ground forces commander, said he believed the targeting was the result of intelligence gathered by Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We've been operating out of these two buildings that are together here at Camp Doha for 10 years. So there's been a long time for that information to get back from agents to Saddam and for him to lay that grid into his weapons systems and prepare to shoot it," Webster said.

The war against Iraq began when the United States launched its own surprise missile and bombing attack against a location where it believed Saddam and members of the Iraqi high command were meeting.

Webster said it was unclear when the order to fire at ground forces headquarters was made by the Iraqis.

"That decision may have been passed down before the war started where he told folks, 'Given this set of conditions we want you to shoot as often as you can at this building in Kuwait,'" he said.

There were a number of other missiles fired by the Iraqis at Kuwait, with targets including camps where coalition troops were based. One missile landed near one of Kuwait City's most popular shopping malls, injuring two people and causing some damage to the mall.

Members of Army air defense operations referred to the man commanding the Iraqi launcher as "Five O'clock Charlie."

"They know everything about him but his name," said Col. Chuck Anderson, deputy commander of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command.

Just minutes after Iraqi attack, the air defense command was able to plot the location of the Iraqi launch site and two A-10 Thunderbolts already in the Basra area destroyed the missile battery.

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