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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Iraq war: Unanswered questions
One feature of the war in Iraq was the speed and immediacy with which many events were reported by the media. Some of these turned out to be not quite what they seemed, others are still surrounded by confusion. Was this the fog of war, effects-based warfare, propaganda, or error? BBC News Online takes stock:
US Brigadier General Vincent Brooks gives another briefing in Qatar
Journalists complained official briefings were not as informative as they might have been
Click on the headings below to go straight to a particular section.

Coalition account: On day one of the war, 20 March, military spokesmen for the US and UK announce that "Scud-type" missiles have been fired into Kuwait. This was significant because Iraq was banned from having Scuds or other missiles of a similar range under UN resolutions.

Clarification:Three days later US General Stanley McChrystal reports: "So far there have been no Scuds launched."

Umm Qasr falls
Coalition account: The fall of Umm Qasr, an Iraqi town and port near the border with Kuwait, is announced and reported several times in the first days of the war - the first of these on 20 March. On 21 March Admiral Michael Boyce, UK chief of defence staff, and Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, report that the town has fallen to coalition forces.

Other reports: Various media outlets report heavy fighting in Umm Qasr on 22 and 23 March.

Basra uprising
UK military's account: On the evening of 25 March British military intelligence officials report a "popular civilian uprising" in Basra. Major General Peter Wall, British Chief of Staff at Allied Central Command in Qatar, confirms that it appears an uprising has taken place, but that it is in its infancy and British troops are "keen to exploit its potential". The officials say Iraqi troops in the city turned mortar fire on their own civilians in an attempt to crush the unrest.

Member of the Amer family weep over the coffins of relatives killed in the Shula market bombing
Mourning the dead of the Shula market bombing
British journalist Richard Gaisford, who is with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards just outside Basra, says British troops are bombarding the mortar positions in an effort to support the uprising.

Other reports: Also on 25 March Arabic television stations report no sign of an uprising and that the city is quiet. Iraqi officials deny reports of an uprising, calling them "hallucinations".

Further UK account: On 26 March, deputy commander of British forces Major-General Peter Wall says the uprising is "just the sort of encouraging indication we have been looking for". But he adds: "To avoid any excessive optimism at this stage I should say we don't have any absolutely clear indication of the scale and scope of this uprising or exactly what has engendered it."

Conclusion: There is still no independent verification that an uprising occurred in Basra.

Tank column
Initial reports: On the evening of 26 March reports emerge that a column of 120 Iraqi tanks and armoured vehicles are heading south out of Basra. Major Mick Green, of the UK's 40 Commando, is quoted by the Mirror newspaper as saying: "We have no idea why this column has come out at the moment. Their intentions or motives are totally unclear but they have adopted an offensive posture and do not want to surrender, so we have attacked them."

Later reports: Newspapers and news bulletins the next morning carry accounts of fierce fighting and a large battle.

Clarification: Later on 27 March, a British military official is quoted as saying: "It was 14-0." This is understood to have meant that the Iraqi column consisted of only 14 vehicles. The official put the initial reports down to "the fog of war" and an erroneous radar signal.

Market explosions
On 26 March an explosion at a market in Baghdad's Shaab district kills at least 14 civilians. The BBC's Andrew Gilligan visits the scene. "What seemed to be two missiles landed in a busy shopping parade. The nearest military building, civil defence headquarters, is I have to say at least quarter of a mile away," he reports. The cause of the blast is still disputed.

Iraqi account: Following the first blast, at Shaab, Iraq claims that coalition forces are targeting Iraqi civilians.

US account: Initial briefings from US officials say coalition aircraft targeted nine Iraqi missiles and launchers in Baghdad during 26 March. Officials say Iraqis have placed the missiles in a residential area less than 100 metres (300 feet) from homes. Later in the day, the Pentagon insists that they did not target the market area in Baghdad. Major General Stanley McChrystal of the US joint staff says he did not know whether the explosions were caused by a stray US weapon or perhaps Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles that fell back to earth.

British checkpoint in southern Iraq
Checkpoints have been the scene of suicide attacks and civilian deaths
A US military spokesman at coalition Central Command says: "Our early intelligence report provides no conclusive evidence that we have caused the damage in the civilian marketplace. One possibility and high probability is that it was caused from the fallout from the regime's anti-aircraft fire."

Other reports: The BBC's Andrew Gilligan says that explanation is "unlikely because we simply haven't heard any anti-aircraft fire in the city for the past four days".

On 29 March, an explosion at a market in the Shula district of Baghdad kills more than 50 civilians.

US account: A US Central Command spokesman in Qatar suggests the likely cause was Iraqi fire. One issue likely to be examined in both market bombings, the New York Times reports, is the relatively small size of the craters, in the case of the attack at Shula they were closer to the kind associated with mortars, artillery shells or small bombs, than to the kind of craters commonly caused by American bombs or missiles in Baghdad.

Other reports: The British Independent newspaper reports on 2 April that its correspondent in Baghdad, Robert Fisk, has found a 30-centimetre-long piece of shrapnel at the site of the Shula bombing showing the serial number of the bomb. The newspaper says that the number identifies the cause of the explosion as a US anti-radar missile manufactured in Texas by the Raytheon company and sold to the US navy.

UK Government account: On 2 April UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says of the first bombing, in the Shaab district: "It is increasingly probable that this was the result of Iraqi - not coalition - action."

On 3 April the UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says that the there is no evidence that the market bombings were caused by coalition missiles other than evidence provided by the Iraqi regime. He says that there are Western intelligence reports that Iraqi officials had "cleared up" the site of the Shula bombing "to disguise their own responsibility for what took place".

Conclusion: Coalition officials say both bombings are still under investigation.

UK account: At a press conference on 27 March with the US president at Camp David, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says that Iraq has executed two British soldiers whose bodies were shown on Arabic television.

Crater left at the market bombing in Shula district
A crater left by a bombing in the Shula district
"If anyone needed any further evidence of the depravity of Saddam's regime, this atrocity provides it," he says. "It is yet one more flagrant breach of all the proper conventions of war."

Iraqi denial: Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf says that Mr Blair has "lied to the public" about the soldiers. "We haven't executed anyone."

Later reports:: The British prime minister's spokesman later said that there was no "absolute evidence" that the UK servicemen had been executed.

Chemical weapons find
On 27 March, George W Bush says that US forces have destroyed a camp in northern Iraq belonging to Ansar al-Islam. Washington's assertion that there was a link between Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and the Baghdad regime rest mainly on the alleged links between Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda. US officials have consistently maintained that the discovery of the poison ricin in London was linked to this camp. UK officials have denied this.

US account: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers says on 30 March: "We attacked and now have gone in on the ground into the site where Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda had been working on poisons. We think that's probably where the ricin found in London came from."

Other reports: In London on 31 March two newspapers, the Mirror and the Sun report that the American finds at the Ansar al-Islam site offers proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The Sun argues that this justifies the war against Iraq.

Later US account: On 1 April US Brigadier General Vincent Brooks says coalition troops are yet to find any banned weapons in Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld insists Iraqi weapons of mass destruction will be found in areas in and around Baghdad and Tikrit.

Capture of Iraqi general
British account: On 30 March British forces involved in clashes in Basra say they have captured an Iraqi general. UK Group Captain Al Lockwood says the general is being asked to co-operate with UK forces in the planning operations against Iraqi resistance in Basra.

A shattered picture of Saddam Hussein lies in a pile of rubble in Basra
It is still not clear whether there was an uprising in Basra
Other reports: Qatari television network al-Jazeera interviews Lieutenant General Walid Hamid Tawfiq, an Iraqi commander in southern Iraq. He insists that no general has been taken prisoner by the British.

UK retraction: The UK Ministry of Defence retracts earlier claims on the capture of a general. It is believed that a captured officer was mistaken for a general.

Checkpoint deaths
Late on 31 March, US troops open fire on a civilian van that fails to stop at a checkpoint. Seven Iraqi women and children are killed, according to US officials.

US account: US officials say the driver of the car failed to stop after warning shots were fired over the car and then at its engine. Soldiers fired at the passenger cabin "as a last resort". US soldiers at checkpoints were said to be jumpy after a suicide attack at a checkpoint had killed four servicemen. Pentagon officials insist that the correct procedures were followed, and that soldiers had acted in "the appropriate way".

Other reports: William Branigin, a reporter with the Washington Post embedded with the US Third Infantry, witnesses the shooting and has a different account. He says that 10 people were killed, and no warning shots were fired. He reports that after the shooting Captain Ronny Johnson, the commander at the checkpoint, yelled at his platoon commander: "You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!" US forces, according to William Branigin, offered the survivors of the incident financial compensation.

Cluster bombs
Iraqi account: Officials in the Iraqi capital say that US forces have been dropping cluster bombs on civilian areas in Iraq. First reports of the use of cluster bombs in the war appear in the Western media on 3 April.

Coalition denial:US and British officials deny the use of cluster munitions. British military spokesman Colonel Chris Vernon said: "We are not using cluster munitions, for obvious collateral damage reasons, in and around Basra."

Later UK account:A military official in London tells BBC News Online: "We have used them elsewhere." He said they were an effective weapon of warfare, for example to target a convoy of military vehicles, but were only used in the open far from built up areas. UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon defends the use of cluster bombs in Iraq on 4 April, saying they are legal and not using them would put British soldiers at greater risk.

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