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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqis Celebrating Ambush of U.S. Soldiers

Aired September 18, 2003 - 10:27   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go right over seas right now to Iraq because our Nic Robertson has just managed to get to a site where a U.S. convoy of soldiers had been ambushed or had run into some trouble and we understand there have been some casualties. Nic is just making his way to the scene west of Baghdad. And Nic is joining us now on the telephone now with the very latest. Nic, what are you hearing right now?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, we heard from the Coalition Provisional Authority here that two U.S. soldiers have been injured in an ambush. They were ambushed when an improvised explosive device went off and they were shot at.

When we arrived at the scene here one burnt out U.S. military truck was being removed from the scene as well as a burnt out container. They are being removed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) several tanks and several Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Now, the crowd of this town of Khaldiyah right in the heart of the Sunni triangle, very close to the towns of Fallujah and Ramallah where there are many, many attacks today against U.S. troops. The crowds here are celebrating what they are saying is a victory against the U.S. soldiers. They're still burning oil in the roads, the crowds are firing weapons in the air, carrying pictures of Saddam Hussein.

There is a general feeling amongst the people of this town who gathered here perhaps several hundred that this is a victory for people them in what they see as their fight against the U.S. troops. Certainly we have seen the coalition soldiers pulling out of the area. Now the people of the town moving in -- Leon.

HARRIS: Nic, just to give you a quick update on what we're hearing here stateside. We are hearing from our sources at the Pentagon that three U.S. soldiers were injured. Are you hearing anything about any other casualties or the degree to which these people may have been injured? Because there are reports on the wires that said there may have been a number dead here.

ROBERTSON: There were those reports. We have not been able to confirm them here on the ground. Certainly the people of this town think and tell us that they think and tell us that they killed some soldiers. But certainly that's not something we have confirmation of.

What they do tell us is that there was an extended gun battle here. This explosive device went off at perhaps at quite a strategic point. There's an area of high ground, a high bank of perhaps about 30 or 40 feet high overlooking the area where this situation took place. Possibly giving the gunmen who attacked the troops a vantage point to shoot down. That's not clear.

But what the people of the town tell us is that they had -- they had the U.S. military convoy pinned down. And there was an intense gun battle that went on here for a number of hours. However, that gun battle certainly seems to be over. Those vehicles removed. The exact number of casualties at this state (ph) is still not exactly clear -- Leon.

HARRIS: Understood. And I should clarify that. We're getting our information from military sources in Baghdad, not necessarily coming from the Pentagon.

Real quickly, Nic, if you can tell us right now, how many soldiers may have been in this convoy originally? And where are they all right now? Do you know?

ROBERTSON: The convoy has moved out of here back in the direction of Baghdad, possibly in the direction of one of the major base near the town of Fallujah.

This town has been particularly tense recently. The police chief, the Coalition Appointed Police chief here, the police chief who worked with the U.S. troops here, was murdered a couple of days ago in a gun attack. This town is a few miles from the town of Fallujah where U.S. troops have apologized for the regrettable incidents of nine Iraqi policemen being killed in what appears to be a mistaken friendly fire incident over the weekend.

Tensions have been high. The police in this town of the heart of Sunni triangle have been saying that they have been intimidated recently by what they call the Iraqi Resistance Fighters. Their police chief was killed a couple of days ago. Now this incident taking place here in that very town -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you very much, Nic. And considering the fact that area is still in a bit of turmoil we urge you and the crew to be very, very careful.

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