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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Iraqi Tactics Make Civilians Casualties Hard to Avoid

Aired March 27, 2003 - 02:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BROWN: As we said a moment ago, the reality of war is that civilians die. The reality of this war is enemy tactics are making those civilian casualties very difficult to avoid. Here's CNN's Alessio Vinci.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Marines in Iraq burying the body of a 6-year-old boy, his head facing Mecca, according to Muslim tradition, a casualty of a new kind of war, killed along with his father as their vehicle approached a Marine checkpoint at high speed. The man, Marines say, was an armed combatant.

Marines say they want to avoid killing civilians, but they pose a threat, commanders say, because Iraqi paramilitary groups recruit them to run scouting missions in U.S.-controlled territory, often accompanied by young children.

SGT. NASSER MANASTERLI, U.S. MARINES: Some of them have been -- have told us that they've been told, You need to fight. If you don't fight, we'll do something to your family.

VINCI: The danger, U.S. military officials say, is that paramilitary groups are conducting guerrilla-style warfare against U.S. positions.

LT. COL. RICKY GROBAWASKI, U.S. MARINES: I mean, we expect that, and we're ready for that. And they may want to -- and they're very well trained in guerrilla warfare, but we're very well trained in anti-guerrilla warfare, as well. And we'll -- you know, things -- if they want to come at us with that, we'll be waiting for them.

VINCI: When possible, suspects are cuffed and taken in for questioning, or sometimes civilians are simply sent back from where they come from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, "No entry, road closed" on this one.

VINCI: And to minimize as much as possible contact between civilians and U.S. Marines, the military is putting up signs in Arabic warning the local population to stay away and remain in their homes.

(on camera): Marines say they do not know how many civilians may have been killed so far, but they say they were surprised to see women and children in the streets of Nasiriya while the fighting was raging on. Clearly, said one commander, there is somebody among the Iraqis who is not concerned about the well-being of innocent civilians.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, with the U.S. Marines in Nasiriya, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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