VOA TV's Deborah Block, traveling with a Marine unit in Iraq, tells VOA's Jim Bertel, about abandoned Iraqi military posts Wednesday as Baghdad falls to U.S. forces.
Block: 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.
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.
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?
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 gas masks 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.
Bertel: Deborah, before I let you go, I want to tell you about a nice letter we received from a woman named Jenny. Her brother Jake is a Marine in your unit. She has been following your reports on VOA's website and says that they have really put the family at ease. So, for Jenny, and actually for all of us, thanks so much for the great job you've been doing.
Block: Thank you so much for telling me that. I've been with a great bunch of guys. They're doing a wonderful job. And I'm really glad to hear that I can help the families find out what's going on with their children - now adults really.