What happened when Iraq was invaded 20 years ago?

Smoke rises from explosions during the first few minutes of a massive air attack on March 21, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq [Wathiq Khuzaie /Getty Images]

Twenty years ago, the US and the UK announced that Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and supporting "terrorist groups".

On March 19, 2003, a US-led coalition began bombing Iraq, and one day later a ground invasion began. In the coalition were US, UK, Australian, and Polish soldiers.

President Bush shakes hands with British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Bush shakes hands with UK PM Tony Blair, left, his ally in launching a war on Iraq, at the White House in the US capital, January 31, 2003 [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

In 2011, the coalition forces withdrew from Iraq, declaring the war over and leaving behind at least 275,000 people dead and a country ravaged.

Al Jazeera breaks down some of the war's defining moments in the following timeline.

Building up to invasion

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, US President George W Bush began claiming that Iraq had WMDs - a claim later proved false - and that it supported al-Qaeda, making disarming it a new priority.

Bush signs a resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq, on October 16, 2002 [Ron Edmonds/AP Photo]

On September 24, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons: "Of course there is no doubt that Iraq, the region and the whole world would be better off without Saddam."

Tony Blair as British Prime Minister making statement to House of Commons on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, London, Britain, video still
Blair speaks in the House of Commons on Iraq's purported WMDs in this video still, London, UK, on September 24, 2002 [AP Photo]

Hearing the intent behind those statements, hundreds of thousands of people around the world poured onto the streets to protest against a war in Iraq.

Iraq War protest
Global demonstrations against a looming US-led war on Iraq were the biggest since the Vietnam war [Reuters]

In November 2002, UN Security Council Resolution 1441 afforded Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”.

Iraq members of parliament with arms raised to vote
Iraqi MPs vote against UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Baghdad, Iraq, November 12, 2002 [AP Photo]

Four days later, the Iraqi parliament voted to reject the UN resolution.

Source: Al Jazeera