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April 5, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Marines Destroy Suspected Terrorist Camp
Marines Destroy Suspected Terrorist Camp in Nighttime Raid, but Find Few Fighters

The Associated Press


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SOUTH OF BAGHDAD, Iraq April 6

A Marine battalion rolled into a Tigris River town and destroyed a Republican Guard headquarters, seized one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's palaces and attacked a suspected terrorist training camp.

Tanks with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines launched a fiery attack late Saturday on the town, which military officials said contained a suspected weapons of mass destruction site dating back to 1991. Citing security reasons, Marines in the field declined to name the town south of Baghdad.

Backed by coalition airstrikes, Marines in night-vision goggles used tank guns, 50-caliber rounds, machine-gun launched grenades and missiles to hit Iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers and military installations.

Iraqis fired missiles at the planes, but apparently not one bullet was fired at the Marines, Lt. Col. Michael Belcher said. Before the battle, Marines had estimated there were between 500 and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers in the town.

They found abandoned trenches, reinforced with sandbags, and empty sandbag nests on rooftops throughout the town. Marines said Iraqi fighters there had shot at a scouting unit on the road earlier in the day.

"I think they scurried like a bunch of roaches," said Gunnery Sgt. Sandor Vegh, 34, of Circleville, Ohio, referring to the Republican Guard fighters they believed were defending the town.

It was unclear what the Marines found at the training camp, which intelligence reports said had been linked to a terrorist group. No other details were available about the sites targeted in the raid.

Attacking F-18s destroyed three Iraqi tanks, two armored personnel carriers and one anti-aircraft artillery piece. Infantry destroyed two trucks, one artillery piece and killed at least 13 Iraqi soldiers.

"There were so many secondary explosions, I think we hit an ammo dump," Belcher said.

One Iraqi truck hit by 50-caliber rounds burst into flames, lighting the night sky up with an orange glow, as it continued exploding. It continued blowing up with secondary explosions for several minutes.

The explosions kicked up dust and singed the air with the smell of burning molasses. One building that was hit exploded into a huge fireball, and blasts continued to emanate from it for the next 20 minutes, sounding like a massive firefight. The flames shot 50 feet into the sky.


photo credit and caption:
U.S. Marines with India Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, watch as a fire rages following an air and artillery strike against an Iraqi army training camp southeast of Baghdad early Sunday, March 6, 2003. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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