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Ten years after U.S. bombs rained down on Baghdad, Iraq...

It was a decade ago today that U.S. bombs first rained down on Baghdad, Iraq, while in Washington, then-President George W. Bush announced the start of hostilities — a U.S.-led coalition with the U.K. and other forces — on March 19, 2003. It was already the early hours of March 20, 2003, in Iraq when the airstrikes began.

The military action quickly ousted Saddam Hussein, but led to years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants battled U.S. forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis dead.

At the end of 2011, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially declared the Iraq War over with the last U.S. troops withdrawing from Iraqi soon after. Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the coalition, prompting the invasion in 2003, were never found in these 10 years following the start of the invasion.

A decade later, Iraq’s long-term stability and the strength of its democracy are uncertain. While the country is freer than it was during Saddam’s murderous rule, its Shiite-led government is arguably closer to Tehran than to Washington. It faces an outpouring of anger by the Sunni minority that was dominant under Saddam and at the heart of the insurgency that followed his ouster.

With files from the New York Times and Associated Press.


Smoke rises from the Trade Ministry in Baghdad on March 20, 2003, after it was hit by a missile during U.S.-led forces attacks. (Jerome Delay/AP Photo)



A U.S. Marine watches a statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled in Firdaus Square in downtown Baghdad on April 9, 2003. (Jerome Delay/AP Photo)



Piles of torn and burned Iraqi currency bearing the portrait of Saddam Hussein lie in ashes on the floor of the burned Baghdad Central Bank on April 18, 2003. (David Guttenfelder/AP Photo)

More photos after the jump.



U.S. Army soldiers from Killer Troop, Third Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment rest on mattresses in their makeshift barracks at Combat Outpost Rabiy in Mosul, Iraq, 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, on March 18, 2008. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo)



U.S. Marines play football in Karabilah, an Iraqi town near the Syrian border, on Nov. 24, 2005, during Thanksgiving celebrations. (Jacob Silberberg/AP Photo)



A detainee in an outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military policeman at the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on June 22, 2004. The American soldiers said that he had repeatedly got into fights with other inmates in the prison. (John Moore/AP Photo)



This late 2003 image obtained by The Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)



An Iraqi prisoner of war comforts his four-year-old son at a regrouping center for POWs captured by the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division near Najaf, Iraq on March 31, 2003. The man was seized in An Najaf with his son, and the U.S. military did not want to separate the two. This image garnered photographer Jean-Marc Bouju the World Press Photo of the Year award for 2003. (Jean-Marc Bouju/AP Photo)



U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman HM1 Richard Barnett, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, holds an Iraqi child in central Iraq on March 29, 2003. Confused front line crossfire ripped apart an Iraqi family after local soldiers appeared to force civilians towards positions held by U.S. Marines. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)



The mother of Samah Hussein cries over his body in a Baghdad, Iraq morgue on June 13, 2004, after he was killed when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside the U.S. military camp Cuervo in Baghdad. (Samir Mizban/AP Photo)



Muntadhar al-Zeidi, an Iraqi journalist, throws a shoe at U.S. President George W. Bush during a news conference with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 14, 2008. Al-Zeidi was discharged from prison on Sept. 14, 2009, after getting early release for good behaviour. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)



U.S. President George W. Bush gives a thumbs-up as he visits the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln off the California coast on May 1, 2003. Later in the day, he declared that major combat in Iraq was finished. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)



This image made from a video from a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gun sight, posted at Wikileaks.org and confirmed as authentic by a senior U.S. military official, shows two men in the streets of the New Baghdad district of eastern Baghdad after being fired upon by the helicopter on July 12, 2007. Among those killed in the attack was Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children also were wounded. According to U.S. officials, two helicopters arrived at the scene to find a group of men approaching the fight with what look to be AK-47s slung over their shoulders and at least one rocket-propelled grenade. A military investigation later concluded that what was thought to be an RPG was a telephoto lens and the AK-47 was a camera. (Wikileaks.org/AP Photo)



Samar Hassan, 5, screams after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division in a shooting January 18, 2005, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The troops fired on the Hassan family car when it unwittingly approached them during a dusk patrol in the tense northern Iraqi town. Samar said she was sitting in the back seat of the car with her brother and three sisters on their way back from hospital. Parents Hussein and Camila Hassan were killed instantly, and a son Racan, 11, was seriously wounded in the abdomen. Racan, who lost the use of his legs, was treated later in the U.S. The photographer of this now-iconic image, Chris Hondros, died April 20, 2011, while on assignment in Libya. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)



Samar Hassan, now 16, cries during an interview with Reuters in Mosul, 390 km north of Baghdad, March 6, 2013. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)



A U.S. soldier demonstrates access to the spider hole used by Saddam Hussein before he was captured two days earlier, on a farm near Tikrit, northern Iraq on Dec. 15, 2003. (Laurent Rebours/AP Photo)



Captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein undergoes a medical examination in Baghdad in this Dec. 14, 2003 video image. (U.S. Military via APTN/AP Photo)



A U.S. Marine pulls down a picture of Saddam Hussein at a school April 16, 2003, in Al-Kut, Iraq. A combination team of Marines, Army and Special Forces went to schools and other facilities in Al-Kut looking for weapons caches and unexploded bombs in preparation for removing and neutralizing them. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)



A woman cries in the stairwell of her home as U.S. soldiers carry out house-to-house searches near Martyrs' Square in Baghdad, Iraq on July 7, 2004. (David Guttenfelder/AP Photo)



Relatives of Iraqi National Guard soldier Ryaad Khudayar grieve at the morgue in the Baqouba hospital, some 65 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, after he was killed when a car bomb exploded on Aug. 3, 2004, at an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint outside the city of Baqouba, killing at least four guardsmen and wounding six others. (Khalid Mohammed/AP Photo)



Headstones are reflected in a photograph that is leaning against the headstone for Iraq war casualty U.S. Army Master Sgt. Tulsa Tulaga Tuliau at Arlington National Cemetery on March 19, 2013, in Arlington, Va. Tuliau was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations near Rustimayah, Iraq, on September 26, 2005. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)



Lesleigh Coyer, 25, of Saginaw, Mich., lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Ryan Coyer, who served with the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on March 11, 2013. Coyer died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)




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