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Martin Savidge: From jubilation to conflagration

Savidge
CNN's Martin Savidge

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Just two blocks from a jubilant celebration, U.S. Marines engaged in a firefight Wednesday in eastern Baghdad, near Baghdad University.

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, embedded with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, experienced both extremes. The following is a transcript from Savidge in the thick of the battle between the U.S. forces and Iraqi fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein.

SAVIDGE: You can hear the Marines shouting. There is more fire.

It's not confused: What the Marines are doing is organizing their lines of defense, basically to protect the convoy and deploy as they move.

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That sounds like more tank fire or more missile fire. This appears to be another round going off! We're being warned -- hang on -- about small arms fire coming at our position.

The U.S. tanks are still poised on an overpass. The Marines are being advised to keep their eyes on both sides of the street: Just because they are engaged from one side of the street doesn't mean that they cannot be engaged from the other.

The Iraqi M-16 fire, or maybe heavier machine gunfire, is now starting. The Marines are trying to deploy in a herringbone fashion so that they are protected from all sides, as well as at the front and the rear.

There is smoke coming from some of the buildings. And we can hear now a lot of gunfire from another direction. It may be other Marine units closing from a different direction.

We can't see it: We can only hear it and watch the Marines react to it.

That was a [U.S.] TOW missile, I believe, going off. There's a lot of smoke and dust now, and fire. And it sounds like the U.S. tanks are opening up with their heavy machine guns. We haven't seen anything, but certainly it is close to us.

To be honest, this was the reception we anticipated. As you can hear, this is a far cry from the jubilant crowds we left -- it's just hard to imagine -- two blocks away.

There are no people on the street, other than Marines, that we can see. There's no one here celebrating and certainly no crowds of any sort. I can't remember if there was anyone here when we turned down the street; it was as if [the Iraqi civilians] sensed trouble.

The Marines are now moving forward onto this property. They're also going to go through with an armored personnel carrier.

After being briefly disconnected, Savidge returned live on CNN..

SAVIDGE: You can see the armored personnel carriers maneuvering, with the tanks providing cover fire.

U.S. MARINE: Let's go! Let's go!

SAVIDGE: Looks like we're going in, so we'll climb the curb.

U.S. MARINE: It's a little rough.

After the battle at Baghdad University, Savidge said Marines went door to door in university buildings to ferret out Iraqi fighters. The firefight touched off a large cache of anti-aircraft ammunition, he said, that burned and exploded for another 45 minutes after the battle ended.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.


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