IN THE IRAQI DESERT March 28 —
One group of Marines traded fire with Iraqi forces Friday amid
the burning buildings of An Nasiriyah, while others pushed north of
the strategic city in a grinding bumper-to-bumper movement of
weapons and supplies.
Clashing repeatedly with Iraqi fighters in front and behind, the
convoy was moving at night, headlights out, on a fighting drive
north toward Baghdad.
What the Marines have been doing is "blue-collar warfare," said
Lt. Col. B.P. McCoy, commanding officer of the Marine 3rd Battery,
4th Regiment. "There's no magic solution to it. It is just the
hard-grinding work of patrols."
At least one American was reported killed in the fighting. Two
other Marines were killed after they were accidentally run over by
one of their vehicles as they slept.
At both the southern city of An Nasiriyah and Ad Diwaniyah in the
south-central part of the country, the Marines called in Cobra
helicopters and other aircraft to pound Iraqi ground forces attacks
made possible after a two-day sandstorm finally let up.
In An Nasiriyah, which has a population of about 500,000, Marines
and Iraqi forces exchanged tank and artillery fire in a clash that
set the power plant and other buildings on fire and cast thick black
smoke over the town.
A CH-46 Marine transport helicopter was forced to turn back after
being fired on while trying to pick up casualties and deliver
supplies to Marines fighting in An Nasiriyah. Iraqis fired small
arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
An Nasiriyah, located on the Euphrates River near a junction of
roads that lead from Kuwait to Baghdad, has been the scene of some
of the fiercest fighting of the war, prompting Marines to call the
southern entrances to the city "Ambush Alley."
Earlier this week, more than 25 Marines were wounded in fighting
at An Nasariyah, and U.S. officials said some or all of them were
hurt when one Marine unit mistakenly fired on another.
The continued battle for control of the city comes just days
after Army units pushed on ahead toward Baghdad, leaving it to the
Marines to secure the rear.
Marines flying over the area have encountered bursts of
anti-aircraft fire. The Marines have also faced pockets of
resistance from Iraqis in uniform and from people who looked like
civilians in white pickup trucks and taxis. These Iraqis waved white
T-shirts, then started shooting. The Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's
hard-core loyalists, have also been spotted.
To the north of An Nasiriyah, Marines protected by tanks,
artillery and air cover pushed north toward Baghdad with food, fuel
and other supplies, trying to clean out irregular Iraqi forces along
The Marines waged a firefight at a cement plant seized by
irregular Iraqi forces near Ad Diwaniyah, field commanders in the
area said. One Marine died and one was wounded in the fighting.
Associated Press Writer Alexandra Zavis also contributed to this
|A U.S. Marines vehicle guards
the rear of a convoy of supplies trucks heading north on the
road to Baghdad, near the city of Ad Diwaniyah, central Iraq,
Friday, March 28, 2003. (AP Photo/Laurent
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