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Marines secure key sites on Tigris

From Martin Savidge

Marines take cover Thursday during a battle near Kut, south of Baghdad.
Marines take cover Thursday during a battle near Kut, south of Baghdad.

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CNN's Martin Savidge watches Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines overrun Republican Guard base at Kut and destroy an arms cache (April 3)
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KUT, Iraq (CNN) -- The 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines secured two sites Thursday on the outskirts of Kut, an ancient city whose location on the Tigris River about 40 miles south of Baghdad makes it strategically important.

The two locations were a suspected Republican Guard post and an Iraqi air base.

The attacks began Thursday morning, with Charlie Company leading an assault supported by artillery fire on the suspected Republican Guard base and its bunkers. (On the scene)

As they approached the post, the Marines came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

The Marines responded with even heavier fire from their Mark 19 automatic grenade launchers and .50-caliber machine guns, which are mounted on their armored personnel carriers.

From the back of their APCs, Marines also fired M-16 rifles. And from above, U.S. helicopters struck at Iraqi armor and bunkers, setting them ablaze.

As the fires raged, the bunkers were torn apart by a number of explosions, believed to have been caused by ammunition stored in them.

Marines then dismounted their APCs and walked bunker to bunker searching for Iraqi soldiers and gathering intelligence on the Republican Guard.

A sergeant major who was part of the U.S. team said they found a wealth of information, primarily documents.

Eight Iraqi soldiers, including one described as a local commander, were taken into custody, and a number of them were treated for wounds.

From there, the company known as "Suicide Charlie" approached the Iraqi airfield and found it abandoned. Inside, they found a huge cache of weapons, including hundreds of AK-47s.

In addition, they found enough uniforms, backpacks and other gear to outfit hundreds of troops, along with documents, ledgers, notebooks and records.

Marines carried out nearly 1,000 weapons by the armload and laid them on the ground, where they ran over them with the treads of their APCs. After that, the crushed weapons were covered with gasoline and set afire.

Marines patrol Thursday near a bullet-riddled mosaic of Saddam in Kut.
Marines patrol Thursday near a bullet-riddled mosaic of Saddam in Kut.

Barracks large enough to billet hundreds of troops and rooms containing ammunition and other military equipment were also set ablaze.

The Marines suffered no casualties. Fewer than a dozen Iraqis were wounded or killed.

CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge is with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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