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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Casualties Reported, Friendly Fire Suspected

Aired April 7, 2003 - 04:56   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR: Let's take you back to Baghdad now, somewhere south and east of the city and rejoin Martin Savidge, who is embedded with the Marines.
And Martin, you were telling us a short time ago about casualties and maybe an incident of friendly fire. Any more information on that?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't heard anything more on that, Carol. It takes a lot of time sometimes to figure out exactly what has happened, especially when you're involved in a conflict at the time and that conflict may be ongoing.

But we understand that was with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. They're slightly ahead of us. They were apparently working to create a bridge head and take over an Iraqi bridge. Part of that bridge had been blown out. As they were preparing to move, they were hit by artillery. We understand that at least one armored personnel carrier, in which the Marines ride, was struck and that there were casualties. We don't know the extent of the casualties. We don't know how many.

And what is uncertain at this point is was this friendly fire, because there's a lot of Marine artillery that's going down around this region, or was it indirect fire coming from the Iraqis themselves?

Just a few minutes ago, before we came to air, we had two shells land extremely close to our position here. Again, not sure who's firing, where it's coming from. There is a lot of firing going on in the area here, you hear artillery and the thumping of mortars, as well. That seems to be ongoing. You also hear the sound of the machine guns nearby. There's another one. So you're not quite certain exactly where this battle is being waged or what exactly is being fought for.

We do know that there are a number of bridge crossings around here that are essential and important to get across the Tigris, instead of moving west into the city of Baghdad from the eastern side, which is where we are now.

Some of those bridges had been destroyed or partially damaged by retreating Iraqi troops. They would do that, obviously, to try to stymie U.S. forces coming across. It doesn't work very effectively, actually, because the Marines bring their own bridge making material right up front with them. So they can quickly have a temporary bridge up and running and ready to move heavy armor across with only a few hours delay, if that at all. So right now you see that our column is poised, ready to move, prepared to go wherever its being directed. And standing by to enter into Baghdad, in fact, been the course laid.

COSTELLO: I'm glad to see that you put your helmet on, because you haven't had it on all morning and you know, we just worry about you, Martin.

And a question for you about the bridges. Were they laden with explosives that were planted by the Iraqis? Is that what you meant by bridges being partially destroyed by Iraqis?

SAVIDGE: Well -- it's unclear how well they were prepared for these bridges and for, perhaps, the quick advance of Marines coming in from the east side. It is -- it hasn't been confirmed to us whether these were destroyed by, perhaps, indirect fire, meaning calling in their own artillery on their own bridges, or whether there had been some orchestrated effort to wire these bridges for demotion.

Not all the bridges have been blown. In fact, there are a number of them that are in tact. And this one was only partially down. So whatever they may have planned for contingency doesn't seem to have worked out too well at this particular point, Carol.

COSTELLO: Looks like the place you are standing, Martin, seems rather barren. Are you seeing any people around?

SAVIDGE: No. This particular area where we are is kind of barren. I could go into detail, but you know what, that would give away sort of where we are.

COSTELLO: I understand.

SAVIDGE: And since we've already got artillery coming close to us, I don't think I want to give any more finer details. It's just that this is not part of the -- if you were to wander outside of here, you'd find a significant suburban population.

COSTELLO: Well, I'm sorry. I didn't want you to be specific. I just wondered if civilians were interfering with the mission there. And apparently they are not.

Martin Savidge, we're going to let you go. Thanks very much.

SAVIDGE: Well, we haven't -- Right.

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