VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu is with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division near Baghdad in Central Iraq. London Bureau Editor Kevin Lynch spoke to her by satellite phone about activities overnight and early in the day.
Ryu: It was a rather quiet night here last evening, very little activity in terms of the persistent problems we've been having here with the Fedayeen, the paramilitary militias who are loyal, diehard supporters of Saddam Hussein. They were harassing U.S. forces in the area for the last several days, and we had some report that they may have been mounting an offensive last evening, but, as of this morning, nothing had happened. There are some questions as to what the Fedayeen might be doing right now, if the attacks are lessening or they are just regrouping. There's no way to tell, but hundreds, if not more than 1,000 Fedayeen have been killed in the past several days by the coalition forces in these clashes throughout the country.
The most disturbing reports that are coming out about the Fedayeen is that they may be retreating into urban areas, and are planning to massacre local Iraqis in areas that are occupied by U.S. and British troops, and then blame the attacks on coalition forces. There are also some reports that they may also try to wear American military uniforms, attempt to blend in with American troops, and conduct hit-and-run attacks on U.S. troops and civilians. In addition to the Fedayeen, there's militia made up of men who have taken vows to martyr themselves for Saddam Hussein. We know very little about this group, but apparently they have been recruited by Saddam Hussein's government to act as militia fighters.
Lynch: Alisha, you're close to the soldiers there. Do they talk about how long they think the war is going to last?
Ryu: I think they understand that this is not going to be a quick war, as a lot of people, perhaps, had hoped at the very beginning. Certainly, the harassment by the Fedayeen and these militia groups has been a factor. They have harassed the coalition troops that are advancing to Baghdad. There's always the uncertainty of whether Saddam Hussein will use chemical weapons. He says he doesn't have any, yet they have been discovering chemical suits and biological antidotes and things like that, nerve gas agent antidotes like atropine in bunkers, in hospitals, those kinds of things that the Iraqi soldiers were preparing. So there are indications that chemical weapons may be used. And with all the unknowns still out there, it's hard to tell when exactly the coalition forces will be able to get into Baghdad. There are still a couple of big battles to be fought, and I think most troops understand that it's something that they will have to do for the long haul. In fact, I asked one soldier, when does he expect to go home, and he says, 'Well, if I make it before Christmas, that will be a bonus.'