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Explosions thudded around the edges of Baghdad at first light on Sunday, after a night of attacks on the Iraqi capital and nearby areas where Republican Guard defenders are based.

Earlier on Sunday four deafening explosions shook central Baghdad, as one of the fiercest U.S.-led air assaults of the war stretched into a second day.

"There were four very loud explosions, one after another, and this time they aren't far away, it seems they're around the center," Reuters correspondent Hassan Hafidh said.

Reuters television journalists said the bombing in central Baghdad targeted a complex inside a presidential palace that was used by President Saddam Hussein's powerful son Qusay.

The complex had already been hit with several missiles in raids in the first days of the war.

In an earlier raid before midnight, about 10 explosions hit the city center and another 20 or so boomed on the outskirts, especially to the northwest, where Saddam's Republican Guards who are tasked with defending Baghdad are based.

As warplanes roared overhead and anti-aircraft fire streamed up into the night sky, waves of explosions hit the edges of the capital through the night.

Two U.S. marines killed in separate vehicle accidentsA U.S. marine was killed when he was hit by a Humvee jeep during a firefight with Iraqi soldiers in southern-central Iraq, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

A brief statement from U.S. Central Command in Qatar said the marine from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed late on Friday. It gave no other details.

In a separate statement, it said another U.S. marine from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force drowned early on Saturday when the Humvee he was travelling in rolled into a canal, again in southern-central Iraq.

Also Saturday, U.S. Central Command said there would be no "pause" in military operations to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Earlier, U.S. military sources in central Iraq said troops had been ordered to pause in their northward push on Baghdad.

"I think that with respect to a pause, there is no pause on the battlefield. Just because you see a particular formation pause on the battlefield it does not mean there is a pause," Major General Victor Renuart told a news conference. "I don't believe there is any intent to pause on the battlefield. We will continue to focus our operations. Sometimes they will be focused in the west, sometimes in the north, sometimes in the south, sometimes all together," he said.

Earlier, U.S. military sources said commanders had ordered a pause of four to six days in their northward push towards Baghdad because of supply shortages and stiff Iraqi resistance. They said the "operational pause", ordered on Friday, meant advances would be put on hold while the military tried to sort out logistics problems caused by long supply lines from Kuwait.

"It's important to put this operation in context," he said. "We're continuing exactly on the plan that we would like... The morale of our troops is exquisite." Asked about concerns the U.S. supply lines were stretched and vulnerable to guerrilla attacks, he said: "There have been some harassing attacks on our supply lines but they have not stopped the movement of our logistical support."

The military sources had said the U.S.-led invasion force would continue to attack Iraqi forces to the north with heavy air strikes during the "pause", battering them before any attack on Baghdad, they said. The officers declined to be named.

Iraq threatens more suicide bombings after four U.S. soldiers killedIraq's vice president Saturday threatened more suicide bombings against coalition troops, saying the suicide bomber who killed four U.S. soldiers outside the Iraqi city of Najaf was a noncommissioned army officer.

Addressing a news conference, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan identified the bomber as Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a father of several children. A detailed statement on the bombing would be issued later, he said.

"This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later," Ramadan said.

Asked whether suicide bombings will now become a policy of the Iraqi military, Ramadan said: "It will be routine military policy. We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land."

Iraqi state television named the bomber as Ali Hammadi al-Namani, an army officer, and claimed he had killed 11 Americans, not four. It said President Saddam Hussein had awarded medals to the bomber.

Earlier Saturday, Capt. Andrew Wallace said the four victims were part of the Army's 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

The attack occurred at a U.S. checkpoint on the highway north of Najaf. A taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, and the driver waved for help. The soldiers approached the car, and it exploded, Wallace told Associated Press Television News.

U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, confirmed the incident but had no additional details. Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said that kind of attack was "a symbol of an organization that's starting to get a little bit desperate."

The suicide bombing was the first against U.S. and British forces since the invasion of Iraq began.

The brigade's commander, Col. Will Grimsley, said his troops were going to get on with the job they'd been sent to do, liberate Iraq.

"The local population that's here and happy that we're here - they tell us all the time, they've been feeling the same kind of terrorist repression for years and now unfortunately it's hit American soldiers," Grimsley said. "I think it only tightens the resolve of why we're here."

Some Tomahawks fell on Saudi, U.S. suspends routesSome U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at Iraq have fallen on Saudi Arabia, forcing planners to suspend certain routes for launches, U.S. military commanders said on Saturday.

"In the case of Saudi Arabia, we did have a number of T-LAM missiles that were reported down in their territory," Major-General Victor Renuart told a news conference at war headquarters in Qatar. "We continue to use Tomahawk cruise missiles throughout the theatre. We have coordinated with the Saudis to hold on a couple of routes that might put them in a position where they could be close to any civilian population," he said.

50 elite Iraqi Republican Guard killed southwest of BaghdadU.S. helicopters attacked units of Iraq's elite Republican Guard on Saturday, killing at least 50 Iraqi soldiers and destroying some 25 vehicles, a senior officer said.

"We fired 40 missiles and we had 40 hits. We had a confirmed kill of at least 25 vehicles including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and trucks, and at least 50 dead," Major Hugh Cate told Reuters.

He said some 30 Apache helicopters of the 101st Airborne Division were used in the attack southwest of Baghdad. All returned safely to their desert airbase, but one had a "hard landing" because the pilot was blinded by swirling dust.

The pilot broke his leg in the crash and the helicopter was knocked out of action, Cate said.

Missile strike severely damages Iraqi Information MinistryEarly Saturday morning, a U.S. cruise missile attack on Iraq's Information Ministry in Baghdad severely damaged the main ministry building, a Reuters correspondent in the city said.

Baghdad was targeted by several air raids overnight, and explosions shook the city shortly after 7 A.M. (0400 GMT). Warplanes could be heard overhead.

Correspondent Khaled Yacoub Oweis said a missile appeared to have pierced the roof of the main 11-storey ministry building. Aerials and satellite dishes on the roof were broken and the area around the building was littered with broken glass.

A ministry annex which houses the offices of several media organizations including Reuters was also damaged. Sky News reported that the before carrying out the strike the U.S. had warned that the information ministry was a legitimate target, in order to give foreign press operating there an opportunity to leave the premises.

A U.S. Central Command statement said Tomahawk cruise missiles had targeted the ministry building, but that an official assessment of the damage was not yet available.

Mammoth air raids pounded the outskirts of Baghdad early Saturday morning, shaking uildings in the city center, Reuters correspondents said.

Missile lands near Kuwait City mall; two people lightly woundedA missile, apparently a Silkworm fired from southern Iraq, fell into the sea and exploded near a major shopping mall in Kuwait City early Saturday, wounding two people, U.S. and Kuwaiti officials said.

The two people injred were a Kuwaiti man whose leg was broken and an Egyptian who suffered a broken shoulder.

The missile evaded Kuwaiti defence systems. It was the closest that a missile has come to Kuwait City since the war began in neighboring Iraq on March 20.

Appearing on national television, police Brig. Ahmed al-Rujaid said the missile landed at about 1:45 A.M. close to the Souq Sharq mall, a multilevel shopping center that's one of Kuwait's largest.

U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said the attack on the mall appeared to have involved a Chinese-made Silkworm missile launched from southern Iraq.

No air raid siren sounded before the explosion, which shattered windows, blasted the glass door at the front of the mall and blew out huge chunks of plaster from the adjacent parking structure.

"There were no injuries and material damage is very small," al-Rujaid said.

Parts of the ceiling and walls littered the ground in a covered plaza in front of the mall after the explosion. Television images also showed smoke rising over the Kuwaiti skyline.

Souq Sharq is on the Kuwaiti seafront and includes a marina, shops and restaurants. The mall is about half a mile from Sief Palace, the official seat of the emir of Kuwait. The emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, lives in Dasman palace, about two miles further away.

At the Pentagon, a senior defense official said initial reports indicated that U.S. anti-missile defenses picked up no sign of a missile engine plume, suggesting that what hit Kuwait City was not a long-range ballistic missile.

The Silkworm is a crude but sometimes effective anti-ship missile with a 1-ton explosive warhead and a range of about 50 miles (80 kilometers).