Bush is reported to have signed the order authorising the attack at 6:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), about three hours before explosions were heard in Baghdad.

The Washington Post reported that aircraft and missiles carried satellite-guided warheads. The bombs aboard the F-117s were joint direct attack munitions, designed to penetrate layers of stone and steel.

The Washington Post reported US officials as cautioning that it would be some time before intelligence could assess with certainty what the US strike had hit, and who had been there. ‘But it was already clear, as it never had been entirely in 1991, that the man in the White House intended to find the Iraqi president and kill him,’ the newspaper added.