AMMAN, JORDAN, JAN. 17 (THURSDAY) -- Iraq responded defiantly to this morning's air attack on Baghdad and other cities, with President Saddam Hussein reportedly calling President Bush a "hypocritical criminal" and vowing to crush "the satanic intentions of the White House."

Declaring that "the great duel, the mother of all battles has begun," a speaker identified as the Iraqi leader said "the dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins."

Saddam was sighted at a Baghdad television station about 1 a.m. EST by a Cable News Network television technician, CNN said. The network reported that the Iraqi leader appeared determined and resolute.

Baghdad radio said the allied planes had attacked densely-populated residential sections of Baghdad and a number of air bases in the pre-dawn raids. The few Western journalists in the city could not immediately confirm the radio's account or give a comprehensive description of damage in Baghdad.

An acrid smell hung in the air over the city of 4 million this morning, the journalists said. A BBC correspondent said the Defense Ministry and post office buildings had taken direct hits, but CBS reporter Allen Pizzey said he had "driven around a section of the city and saw no damage at all. There was no sign anything had happened."

Traffic was light in the foggy morning, and many streets were nearly deserted. One reporter said he had spotted a school bus, and trash was being collected. Air raid sirens wailed.

Reuter reported that Iraq responded to the initial attack by calling up more people for its million-strong regular army. A Defense Ministry statement broadcast by Baghdad radio hours after the raids ordered those born in 1954, through 1956 to report to recruitment offices within three days.

"War started today," the radio announced in a separate broadcast after the attacks, adding: "We will teach America and its allies a lesson." The earlier radio remarks monitored by news services, were made five hours after the attack began.

In his speech, Saddam invoked Islam in flowery rhetoric and quoted from the Koran, the Islamic holy book. He said his nation would "overthrow the renegade traitors who are followers of evil and will crumble the White House, the den of infidels and domination, and the den of poisonous wasps and aggression in Tel Aviv."

Baghdad radio had shut down for approximately two hours after the air strike began at 3 a.m. local time, and resumed broadcasting with quotations from the Koran. At 6:35 a.m., an announcer declared that Iraq stood "on strong and solid ground," and said, "Victory, God willing, is near."

The radio station said, "We will make the showdown that {President} Bush wanted . . . a disaster for him and his agents."

Announcers claimed that Arabs sympathetic to Iraq were responding to the outbreak of war with words and deeds aimed at bolstering Saddam's cause. "Tunisian masses" were calling for a halt to oil supplies for the United States and its allies, and "Moroccan masses" are praising "Iraq's courageous stand against imperialist and Zionist challenges," the radio reported. It said that "mass demonstrations" are taking place in Jordan in support of Iraq. The claims could not be independently verified.

The radio made no mention of any casualties in Baghdad.

Despite Saddam's hard-line statements, it is likely that the Iraqi government was still assessing the effects of the attack, and no statement characterizing its political and military response was expected this morning.

According to reports by television correspondents in Baghdad, U.S. warplanes appeared to have hit a communications tower, an oil refinery and runways at the city's airport. As the attacking planes approached the capital, air-raid sirens sounded through the city and the sky lit up with anti-aircraft fire, correspondents in the ar-Rasheed Hotel reported.

"There were loud explosions, obviously bombs, in three parts of the city," a CNN correspondent said in a telephone report from the city. It looks like the Fourth of July" in Washington. . . . They just got the main telecommunications center."

Baghdad had waited for war with anxiety Wednesday, as many residents quietly abandoned the city for far-flung towns in the countryside, and others huddled with relatives for moral support, according to travelers arriving from the Iraqi capital and several Baghdad residents reached by phone.

Two Baghdad residents said some families had fled to the northern mountains, others to resort towns near the Iranian border and still others to the southern cities of Najaf and Karbala, which are Shiite religious centers. Refugees apparently had fled to these cities in the expectation that American planes would not strike near holy sites out of fear of reprisals from Moslem fundamentalists.

"Baghdad is like a ghost town," said one traveler who reached the Jordanian capital before the bombing began. "The streets are deserted and the {markets} are calm. You don't know what is going on inside each home, but there are signs of increasing apprehension," he added.

Those who opted to stay behind were trying to carry on, although offices closed earlier than usual, and shops and restaurants were shuttered, one resident said.

A middle-aged housewife said her elderly aunt had moved in with her family so she would not be alone, but insisted that they would not move out of their home. "We are fine and our spirits are high," she said defiantly before the bombs began to fall. "There is nothing to worry about."