March 2003

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • Iraq Begins to Destroy Missiles (March 1): Reluctantly starts dismantling its Al Samoud missiles, as ordered by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.
  • September 11 Suspect Arrested (March 1): Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top aide to Osama bin Laden who is accused of masterminding the 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S., captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
  • Parliament Rejects U.S. Troops in Turkey (March 1): Turkish lawmakers reject plan to have about 62,000 American troops based in Turkey in case of war with Iraq. A stunning defeat for the U.S.
  • Terror Trial Opens in Greece (March 2): Nineteen people accused of belonging to the leftist November 17 terrorist group. Officials say the organization has murdered 23 people, including four Americans, since 1973.
  • North Korean Jets Intercept U.S. Plane (March 3): Four fighter jets come within 50 feet of an unarmed U.S. Air Force spy jet over the Sea of Japan. (March 4): Pentagon announces that 24 bombers to be sent to Guam in case diplomacy with North Korea fails.
  • Bomb Explodes in Philippines (March 4): Attack at airport in Davao kills 21 people, including an American missionary, William P. Hyde. Officials suspect Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
  • Suicide Bomber Strikes Bus (March 5): Hamas claims responsibility for attack in Haifa that kills 15 people, including a 14-year-old American girl.
  • France and Russia Signal Use of Veto (March 5): Threaten to veto resolution introduced by the U.S., England, and Spain that calls for the use of force to disarm Iraq.
  • Inspectors Say Iraq Becoming More Cooperative (March 7): Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei tell UN Security Council that pressure on Iraq has been effective in getting country to disarm.
  • ElBaradei Discredits Evidence Against Iraq (March 7): UN weapons inspector reports to Security Council that documents that said Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were forged. Bush administration had used the evidence to claim Iraq was constituting its nuclear weapons program.
  • England Pushes Amended Security Council Resolution (March 7): British foreign minister Jack Straw proposes compromise amendment that would give Iraq until March 17 to completely disarm. France, Russia, and Germany say they will not vote for resolution.
  • Argentina Indicts Bombing Suspects (March 8): Argentine judge issues arrest warrants for four Iranian government officials suspected of blowing up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Blast killed 85 people.
  • Turkey Elects New Leader (March 9): In a special vote, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party wins a seat in parliament and becomes prime minister. He was previously barred from government for “inciting religious hatred.”
  • U.S. Seeks Expulsion of Iraqi Diplomats (March 9): Bush administration asks about 60 countries to expel Iraqis they think are intelligence agents.
  • Palestinian Parliament Approves Prime Minister Post (March 10): Yasir Arafat nominates Mahmoud Abbas, second-in-command of the Palestine Liberation Organization. (March 19): Mahmoud Abbas formally accepts the position of prime minister. New post will diminish the power of Yasir Arafat.
  • Peace Deal Collapses in Cyprus (March 11): Talks to reunify Greek and Turkish Cypriots fall apart when Turkish leader Rauf Denktash rejects UN agreement.
  • International Criminal Court Opens (March 11): Hague-based court will prosecute human rights abuses. The U.S. did not sign the treaty that created the court.
  • Indonesian General Sentenced (March 12): Brig. Gen. Noer Muis sentenced to five years in jail for failing to stop pro-Indonesian militias from attacking an East Timor church and storming the home of bishop Carlos Belo in September 1999. A total of 42 people died in the attacks.
  • Serb Prime Minister Assassinated (March 12): Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic gunned down outside his Belgrade office. Authorities suspect organized crime.
  • Mystery Illness Strikes Asia (March 15): World Health Organization calls virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a “worldwide health threat.” (March 19): WHO reports illness may be caused by a virus in the paramyxoviridae family. (March 25): U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it thinks a “previously unrecognized virus from the coronavirus family” is the root of the illness.
  • Chinese Leadership Changes Hands (March 15): President Jiang Zemin officially steps down. Hu Jintao succeeds him.
  • U.S., Britain, and Spain Withdraw Resolution (March 17): When it becomes clear that France will veto a joint UN resolution that authorizes use of force against Iraq, countries withdraw resolution and agree to invade without the backing of the Security Council.
  • Serbian Parliament Elects New Prime Minister (March 18): Pro-Western reformer Zoran Zivkovic chosen to replace slain leader Zoran Djindjic.
  • Activist Cleared in Egypt (March 18): Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian-American sociologist who was convicted in 2001 of defaming Egypt, accepting money from the European Union without authorization, and embezzlement, exonerated after serving 14 months in prison.
  • Cuban Plane Hijacked (March 19): Six men, armed with knives, commandeer a plane destined for Havana and redirect it to Key West, Fla. All six suspects arrested.
  • War in Iraq Begins (March 19): U.S. launches Operation Iraqi Freedom. Called a “decapitation attack,” the predawn air strike targets Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. Ground troops enter the country, crossing into southern Iraq from Kuwait. (March 20): Major phase of war begins with heavy aerial attacks on Baghdad and other cities. Campaign, dubbed “shock and awe,” intended to promptly overwhelm Iraqi forces. (March 23): Coalition troops encounter fierce resistance near the southern city of Nasiriya. Iraqi forces capture 12 members of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company. (March 25): U.S. modifies its ground strategy as Iraqi militias, called fedayeen, attack coalition ground troops as they advance on Baghdad. (March 26): About 1,000 paratroopers land in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to open a northern front. (March 27): U.S. bombards Baghdad, targeting government buildings. (March 28): With Umm Qasr freed of mines, first shipment of humanitarian aid arrives in Iraq. Iraqi suicide bomber strikes near Najaf, killing four U.S. soldiers from the Third Infantry Division. (March 30): Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deflects criticism that the U.S. has not deployed enough Army ground troops in Iraq. (March 30): U.S. Marines and Army troops launch first attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, about 65 miles outside Baghdad.
  • U.S. Troops Strike in Afghanistan (March 20): In the largest operation in more than a year, about 1,000 soldiers raid Kandahar, seeking out al-Qaeda members.
  • Hindus Slain in Kashmir (March 23): Twenty-four Hindu Brahmins executed in Nandimarg. India blames Pakistani militants for the attack.
  • Japan Launches Spy Satellites Over North Korea (March 28): Devices to monitor activity in North Korea, which warned that such a move could result in “disastrous consequences.”


  • Brooklyn Mosque Accused of Financing Terror (March 4): Ali Hasan Al-Moayad, a cleric arrested in Germany, told an FBI informant he funneled money to al-Qaeda through the Al Farooq mosque and that he was a spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden.
  • Bush Prepares Country for War (March 6): In nationally televised press conference, president says Saddam Hussein is a direct threat to the U.S. and that the country will attack Iraq unilaterally if necessary.
  • Air Force Announces Rape Investigations (March 6): Reports 54 allegations of rape over 10 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. (March 25): Air Force dismisses four top academy officers in scandal.
  • Democrat Criticized for Remarks (March 11): Virginia representative James Moran under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for saying, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”
  • Utah Teen Reunited with Family (March 12): Elizabeth Smart found in Sandy, Utah, with her alleged kidnappers, Brian Mitchell and his wife, Wendy Barzee, nine months after being kidnapped. (March 18): Mitchell and Barzee each charged with aggravated sexual assault, burglary, and kidnapping.
  • Senate Passes Abortion Ban (March 13): Votes, 64–33, to outlaw intact dilation and extraction, also called partial-birth abortion, a procedure to end pregnancies in the second and third trimesters.
  • Bush Warns Hussein (March 17): In a televised address, president tells country that war will be avoided only if Iraqi president Saddam Hussein steps down within 48 hours.
  • Senate Votes Down Alaska Drilling (March 19): After a bitter fight, Senate votes, 52–48, against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • House Passes Budget Resolution (March 21): Plan calls for $2.2 trillion in spending and allows for President Bush's $726 billion tax cut. (March 25): Senate passes, 51–48, an amendment to nonbinding budget resolution that reduces president's proposed $726 billion tax cut to $350 billion.


  • Broadway Musicians Strike (March 7): Many theaters go dark when stagehands and actors vote to support musicians' strike. Dispute over the number of musicians required to play at Broadway venues. (March 11): Strike ends after an all-night negotiating session.
  • Large Job Losses Recorded in February (March 7): Labor Department announces U.S. payrolls fell by 308,000 in February.
  • New Drug May Blunt Peanut Allergies (March 11): Experimental drug, TNX-901, lessens sensitivity to peanuts by increasing tolerance level.
  • FDA Calls for Bar Codes on Drugs (March 13): Pharmaceutical companies will be required to code each medication so hospitals can make sure patients receive right drug and dosage.
  • Chicago Nabs Top Oscar (March 23): Musical named best picture. Roman Polanski wins best director for holocaust drama, The Pianist. Film's star, Adrien Brody, takes best actor honor.
  • California Diocese Sues Archdiocese of Boston (March 31): San Bernadino diocese accuses Boston of “misrepresentations and suppression of information” and “active misconduct and negligence” for withholding Rev. Paul Shanley's record of sexual abuse when they recommended him for a position in the diocese.

Sources +