The cruise missile attack on Baghdad was aimed at wiping out Saddam Hussein, US sources said.
Pentagon sources said the Iraqi leader, his two sons and senior military officials were the targets of the strike.
The sources said they had intelligence information pinpointing where Saddam and the others may have been.
F-117 stealth bombers were also used, a US military official said.
The attack was described by military observers as a “strategic surgical strike”.
A US government source said: “US intelligence had information pointing to targets of opportunity.”