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Tanks roll in desert as airstrikes hit cities

12 killed when Marine helicopter crashes in Kuwait

An M1A1 Abrams tank races across the Iraqi desert Friday morning.
An M1A1 Abrams tank races across the Iraqi desert Friday morning.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A convoy of U.S. tanks rolled unopposed Friday through the desert toward the Iraqi capital in the second day of the campaign to dislodge Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

And in north Kuwait, dozens of Iraqi troops surrendered with white flags to British marines. The soldiers apparently crossed the border from southern Iraq.

With U.S. and British forces on the move, and after a day in which Baghdad was bombarded with more than 60 cruise missiles, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "Things are going very well. The pressure is continuing on the Iraqi regime, and [the regime] will not be there in the period ahead."

Coalition forces took their first casualties of the campaign when a U.S. Marine CH-46 helicopter crashed in northern Kuwait early Friday morning, killing all 12 people on board -- 8 British military personnel and four American crew members, Pentagon officials said.

There were no indications that hostile fire brought down the helicopter, according to the Pentagon. The accident took place about nine miles south of the Iraqi border.(Full story)

Elsewhere, coalition forces bombed the Iraqi-controlled northern city of Mosul shortly before 4:30 a.m. Friday (8:30 p.m. Thursday EST). Antiaircraft fire was launched, but it was not clear whether any planes were hit.

Friday morning, the 3rd Squadron of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, lead element of the 3rd Infantry Division, was heading toward Baghdad unopposed after brushing aside initial resistance as it rolled across the border from Kuwait the night before, according to a CNN correspondent accompanying the troops.

A group of Kiowa scout helicopters, flying no more than 50 feet above the ground, led a convoy of Bradley fighting vehicles and M1A1 Abrams tanks. In the initial skirmish with Iraqi troops, U.S. forces destroyed six or seven trucks and several tanks. (Full story)

The first coalition forces began crossing from Kuwait into Iraq about 8 p.m. (noon EST) Thursday.

Among the first were U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, accompanied by a thunderous aerial and artillery barrage on Iraqi positions that felt "like an earthquake," according to a New York Times reporter on the scene.

The Marines encountered and destroyed two Iraqi armored personnel carriers. (Full story)

British troops moved into the Faw Peninsula of southern Iraq, which runs from the Iraqi city of Basra to the Persian Gulf and is home to a significant portion of Iraq's oil industry.

Iraqi television said early Friday that targets hit by coalition forces included a military site in Basra and another target in Akashat, a town about 300 miles west of Baghdad near the Syrian border. Iraqi television reported that four Iraqi soldiers were killed.

Television in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, showed coalition bombing Friday morning in Basra.

In Washington, President Bush met Thursday with his Cabinet to review strategies for Iraq. Speaking to reporters, Bush said the "coalition of the willing" had grown to more than 40 countries.

He said Rumsfeld briefed him on the "early stages of the war," reporting that the men and women of the U.S. military had "performed with great skill and bravery."

On Thursday night in Baghdad, an intense U.S. and coalition bombing attack rocked the Iraqi capital with a succession of explosions and fires that destroyed at least two buildings -- including the government facility containing the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

U.S. officials said about 20 cruise missiles were launched in the most recent attacks from U.S. Navy ships and submarines in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and -- for the first time -- from two British submarines.

U.S. officials said the strikes were part of a psychological warfare campaign to ratchet up the tension among Iraq troops and their high command ahead of the main bombardment.

These officials said the strikes were meant to send a message to those in Iraqi uniforms: To make them think that U.S. planes will be coming after them every night.

The strikes began at dawn in Baghdad on Thursday, with cruise missiles and "bunker buster" bombs raining down on a leadership compound.

The Washington Post reported Thursday night that U.S. intelligence officials believe Saddam and at least one of his two sons, Uday and Qusay, were in the compound at the time of the strike. The Post reported that analysts are unsure whether Saddam was killed or injured.

Other developments

• British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that he ordered British forces to take part in the action to protect against a new threat of "disorder and chaos" that comes from brutal regimes like Iraq or from terrorist groups. (Full story)

• Iraqi television broadcast a taped message from Saddam that denounced the U.S.-led military campaign as "criminal" and said his countrymen would be victorious. U.S. intelligence specialists were examining the tape to determine whether the speaker was Saddam or a double. (Full story, text of speech)

• Rumsfeld urged Iraqi leaders to surrender, warning that the U.S. assault would be "of a force and scope and scale that is beyond what has been seen before." (Full story)

• Iraq responded to Thursday's attack by firing at least four missiles into northern Kuwait, two of which U.S. Patriot missiles intercepted, U.S. military officials said. U.S. forces sounded numerous alerts in the hours after the strikes, sending troops at several bases scrambling for chemical protection gear and running for bunkers. Air raid sirens also sounded in Kuwait City. (Full story)

Smoke and flames appear in the sky over Baghdad on Thursday evening.
Smoke and flames appear in the sky over Baghdad on Thursday evening.

• The United States asked governments around the world to expel Iraqi ambassadors and to temporarily suspend embassy services at Iraqi embassies, CNN has learned. The move seeks to delegitimize Saddam's regime and lay the diplomatic groundwork for a new Iraqi government, a senior administration official told CNN. (Full story)

• Turkey's parliament voted Thursday to let U.S. warplanes use Turkish airspace to launch strikes against Iraq and to allow the Turkish military to enter northern Iraq. (Full story)

• U.S. military officials confirmed that oil wells were burning in southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon received reports that Iraqi forces set "as many as three or four" wells ablaze in the southern part of the country. (Full story)

• U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged nations Thursday to act quickly to meet Iraq's humanitarian needs. (Full story)

CNN correspondents Rym Brahimi, Ryan Chilcote, David Ensor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, John King, Art Harris, Nic Robertson, Walter Rodgers, Barbara Starr and Lisa Rose Weaver ,and producer Elise Labott, 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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