Saddam's Palace, Olympic Compound Bombed

Allied warplanes and missiles blasted targets in Baghdad overnight, including Iraq's Olympic headquarters, one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, and what was believed to be an Air Force officers club.

The attacks Monday night and Tuesday morning produced some of the strongest blasts in the Iraqi capital since the war began March. Explosions also rumbled south of the city overnight in attacks apparently aimed at Republican Guard units defending Baghdad.

A modern building in the city's central al-Karada district that was believed to have been used as a club for Air Force officers and their families was destroyed late Monday. The building had been hit earlier in the air war on Baghdad but sustained only minor damage.

On Tuesday, nothing was left except heaps of gray rubble, a few pillars and an outside wall. A statue of Saddam just outside the building was intact.

The air strikes also sent smoke billowing from the Old Palace presidential compound.

In addition, U.S. military officials said allied aircraft bombed a complex that serves as the office of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, where Saddam's son Odai is said to run a torture center. Human rights activists have accused him of jailing and brutalizing athletes who failed to please him.

The lower four floors of the nine-story Olympic building were severely damaged. Walls were blown out, and mangled wire and steel protruded. The building sits in a big complex of housing units, and they appeared unscathed.

During the overnight attack, the 18-story Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists are staying, shuddered as if it had been struck by an earthquake.

On Monday night, Saddam and sons Odai and Qusai appeared on Iraqi television, with the station showing video footage of a meeting of top military commanders. There was no way of determining when the video was shot.

Saddam decorated commanders and troops of army units in Umm Qasr, the Faw peninsula and Nasiriyah for their "heroic" defense of the areas, state television said.

A communique read on Iraqi satellite television said members of the 11th Division, which fought in Nasiriyah, would receive medals and their families would get 2 million dinars — about $670.

Saddam was last shown on Iraqi television on Saturday night. Odai had not been seen on Iraqi TV since the war began, according to Al-Arabiya television.

Iraq also denied that Saddam's family members have left the country.

"The report is a rumor circulated by the U.S. Defense Department," according to a statement broadcast by Iraqi TV on Tuesday. The statement said the fate of the Iraqi president and his family is linked to that of the Iraqi people.

The Americans had hoped to cut off television and radio transmissions to halt Iraqi propaganda, but repeated bombings have largely failed to silence the broadcasts.

Nearly all of Baghdad's telephone lines appeared out in the city of 5 million after at least five telephone exchanges were bombed. But the city's power supply remains intact and street lights came on at night.

Coalition bombardments have focused recently on Republican Guard units protecting the approaches to Baghdad. The goal is to wear down Saddam's best-trained forces ahead of a U.S.-led ground assault on the capital.