On 19 March, more than 175,000 US, British, Australian and Polish troops invaded Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as it was called by Western powers. The USA alone accounted for 130,000 of the attacking force.
Soldiers from another 36 countries later joined them.
According to US president George W. Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair, one of the key aims was to get rid of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – but none was subsequently found.
In early April the US-led coalition forces took control of Baghdad’s international airport, then launched the assault against the capital itself.
On 9 April 2003 Baghdad was formally occupied by Coalition forces, though fighting continued in the city for some time afterwards.
The USA declared victory on 14 April, but it was on 1 May that Bush, under the banner ‘Mission Accomplished’ declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq.