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Traveling With Marines - 2003-04-09


VOA Interview with Deborah Block, VOA-TV

JIM BERTEL, VOA-TV
The events are unfolding very quickly in Iraq. Joining me now is VOA TV's Deborah Block, who is with a marine unit in Iraq.

Deborah, we've been watching dramatic pictures today. Bring us up to date on what's happening with the marines.

DEBORAH BLOCK, VOA-TV
As you've probably heard, reports say that the U.S. Army is in control of the west side of Baghdad, while the marines continue to push into the city from the east. The marines are targeting several government buildings. They have taken over the Iraqi Ministry of Information and destroyed the headquarters of the Islamic extremist group Al-Fedayeen. The marines have also taken control of the Iraqi Oil Ministry building and are searching Saddam Hussein's Foreign Minister's house, that is Tariq Aziz's.

Earlier, an Iraqi family, unfortunately, was used as a human shield. They were killed in gunfire between some Iraqis and marines. The family was in a vehicle and was forced to go in front of another vehicle of Iraqis who were shooting at the marines. And then the marines returned fire and the family, unfortunately, was killed in the crossfire.

JIM BERTEL
Deborah, it sounds like the marines are still fighting quite a fierce battle there, despite the pictures of jubilation we're seeing. Now, along the way you have had a chance to see a number of Iraqi military facilities. What have you found at these institutions?

DEBORAH BLOCK
Actually, right now, I should, first of all, say that the fighting was fierce, but today the marines have not had the kind of resistance they have had in the past, and they have found it quite easy, really, compared to other days, to be pushing forward. As far as what I saw, I went to two places. The first was an area where Iraqi soldiers had been located. They were in fighting holes, apparently waiting for the marines to come into their area so they could confront them. But when the marines got there, they apparently quickly fled.

I saw some very interesting things. I saw leftovers, a cracked eggshell, bread, even a knife with jam on it. There was a large amount of ammunition. I also found photos of an Iraqi soldier with his wife and family. And one of the fighting holes had maps on the wall, and it even had carpeting over the dirt floor.

I also spent a couple of days with the artillery unit that I'm with at a military training and communications compound the marines had taken over. There were bullet holes on the walls and doors. There were a number of gasmasks and dog tags. One room was full of drawings, and it had a planning table outlining the Iraqi military strategy against U.S. troops.

Another small building appeared to have a room, unfortunately, used for torturing people.

Somebody told me, Jim, that they went to a nearby, what they called, ultramodern facility that was obviously being used for nuclear research. They saw laboratories and signs that indicated certain places may be radioactive.

JIM BERTEL
Deborah Block, with the marines in Iraq. Thank you very much.

DEBORAH BLOCK
Thank you.

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