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Report From the Iraqi Desert - 2003-03-28


MS. SMITH:
Debby, I understand you experienced a lot of fighting today. Can you tell us what that was like?

MS. BLOCK:
Yes, Melinda. A large contingent of U.S. marines continued to put pressure on the Iraqi military most of the day in the location that I'm at, which is north of Al-Nassariyah. American tanks, infantry, artillery, and reconnaissance vehicles shot at Iraqi soldiers, vehicles and artillery. U.S. planes also dropped large bombs in the area. Some installations where Iraqi soldiers may be hiding were destroyed. But, for the most part, the U.S. military is trying not to level structures around the country. In other words, the U.S. is trying to maintain the infrastructure of Iraq.

The resistance by the Iraqi Army has been more fierce than what the marines encountered while crossing the Kuwaiti border a week ago. This may be partly due, Melinda, to the fact that U.S. troops appear to be coming in contact more often with the Iraqi Republican Guard, which is the elite army of Saddam Hussein.

MS. SMITH:
Have you seen Iraqis captured? And if so, how are they dressed? We've heard reports that some of them are wearing civilian clothes or uniforms that look like American uniforms.

MS. BLOCK:
Yes, Melinda, I saw approximately 20 Iraqi POW's. They were dressed in military uniforms, however. That was today. They were surrounded by a group of marines who had captured them. They were brought to a containment area for questioning, and then, depending on what their answers are, some of them may be released and others may be held. I also saw a man come right out behind a berm, directly into the artillery unit I'm with. I really couldn't quite believe he did that. He was on his own. He was dressed in civilian clothes. He put his hands up in a posture of surrendering, but the marines were extremely careful about approaching him, because, as you mentioned, there have been people dressed in civilian clothes who act like they are surrendering and then they fire. And a few days ago, a number of marines were killed by civilians.

But, as I said, the marines were very careful about approaching him. And after searching him, they let him go, because he appeared to be a civilian who lived in the area.

MS. SMITH:
But they're definitely being very cautious about the civilians who come up to them now?

MS. BLOCK:
Much more than they were at the beginning.

MS. SMITH:
We wish you good luck and Godspeed, and be safe out there.

MS. BLOCK:
Thank you very much, Melinda. I appreciate that.

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