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Penhaul: Fallujah scene of intense gunbattles

Karl Penhaul
Watch CNN for ongoing updates on the situation in Fallujah, plus CNN correspondents' reports from Baghdad, the Pentagon and the White House.
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Clashes erupt between U.S. Marines and insurgents in Fallujah.

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FALLUJAH, Iraq -- U.S. Marines, backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, engaged in a raging firefight Monday with insurgents in Fallujah, a stronghold of resistance to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Correspondent Karl Penhaul described the scene Monday for the U.S. networks pool.

PENHAUL: Sporadic gunfire can still be heard echoing across this northwest corner of the city of Fallujah.

It was a very different picture though this morning and early afternoon because the area just behind me was the scene of some very intense gunbattles.

The Marines say [it was] one of the most intense gunbattles that they have had in the two or three weeks that the supposed cease-fire has been in place here in Fallujah.

Before dawn, the U.S. networks pool headed out with a Marine platoon. ...

The Marines went and occupied two buildings. They were occupying those so that they could look out for suspected Iraqi insurgents.

Snipers posed some positions on the other side and deeper into the city. They holed up in those buildings for about four or five hours. Then in the words of one Marine, "All hell broke loose."

Iraqi insurgents had massed around the two buildings occupied by Marines, and they opened fire with mortars, with rockets, with automatic weapons fire.

While we were inside that building, we saw rockets smashing into the sides of the buildings, rockets smashing through the windows.

We heard mortar rounds landing nearby, exploding and setting neighboring buildings on fire.

After about an hour and a half, the Marine commander gave the order for his troops to pull back, and that they did with the help of two U.S. tanks that were also called in to assist.

The Marines withdrew from two alleys and returned to one section of their base.

The firefight, though, continued for a good two hours after that. [There were] very heavy exchanges of gunfire; U.S. Marine Cobra attack helicopters were called in.

They were firing off missiles, and also we're told a mortar platoon from further back in the rear was firing off 8-millimeter mortars, and those impacted in a number of buildings behind us, setting them on fire and sending plumes of black smoke into the air.

Also, there was a mosque ... here; it had a minaret 50 to 60 feet high. Marine commanders say they were taking sniper fire from that minaret.

That minaret has now been leveled by U.S. military ordnance, missiles and mortars. There's nothing left at all of that minaret. ...

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