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Marines recover bodies of slain comrades

Battle for Nasiriya continues

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Marine chaplain Gordon Ritchie leads Marines in a brief service at the scene, including a prayer and a moment of silence.

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Marines recover bodies of comrades. CNN's Alessio Vinci reports.
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NEAR NASIRIYA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Marines Friday recovered the bodies of seven fallen comrades who died in intense fighting around Nasiriya in southern Iraqi Sunday, officials said.

The city has been the scene of the fiercest fighting the Marine Corps has been involved in since Vietnam, senior Marines told CNN, and still is not under coalition control five days after coalition forces first engaged Iraqi paramilitaries.

Three Marine infantry battalions occupy the northern and southern parts of the city, military officials told CNN Friday.

Col. Ron Johnson, Task Force Tarawa operations officer, said the Marines were "very close to controlling Nasiriya and making it secure."

Most of the bodies recovered Friday were found in their burned-out armored vehicle.

When the Marines arrived on the scene, they recovered five bodies, said U.S. Marine Capt. Scott Dyer, who oversaw the recovery effort. Some Iraqi civilians came out and showed where they had buried two others, he said.

The Iraqis also handed over the personal effects of at least one of the Marines, including photographs and some mail, Dyer said.

Marine chaplain Gordon Ritchie led the group in a brief religious service at the scene, including a prayer and a moment of silence.

"Marines care for their own," Ritchie said. "And that is in life and in death. And so they see their duty not complete until they are resting in their homeland with their families."

Medics performed a field examination to identify some of the victims. DNA test will be performed for final positive identification.

The bodies will be flown to a staging area where they will be prepared for return to the United States.

CNN's Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.

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