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Walter Rodgers: Encounters with civilians

CNN correspondent Walter Rodgers

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With coalition successes near Baghdad, more and more Iraqi civilians are coming up to U.S. forces with requests. CNN's Walter Rodgers reports. (April 8)
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NEAR BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. military officials reported that a satellite-guided bomb slammed into several Iraqi buildings including a Republican Guard headquarters and the Iraqi Information Ministry center, south of Baghdad on Tuesday.

CNN correspondent Walter Rogers, traveling with the Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, spoke to CNN anchor Bill Hemmer about the latest attacks on the Iraqi capital.

HEMMER: Walt Rodgers is on the outskirts of Baghdad and joins us for what's happening today with the 3rd Infantry Division.

Hello, Walt. Good afternoon, there.

RODGERS: Hello, Bill.

In the past 30 minutes, we heard U.S. jets flying over; we heard the roaring release of two JDAM (satellite-guided) bombs. Army sources have told CNN that the targets hit by those JDAM bombs are the Baathist Party headquarters and the Iraqi Information Ministry.

Earlier in the day, a senior Army source told CNN that the Republican Guard headquarters in Baghdad had been hit and special Republican Guard headquarters in Baghdad was also hit. One senior Army officer here told CNN that there is -- quote -- "no longer any organized military resistance in the city of Baghdad itself." Of course there are continuing pockets of resistance; sometimes those pockets of resistance are rather fierce.

For example, again, earlier in the day, six U.S. special forces soldiers operating independently in Baghdad were injured; they were medivaced out, but there was no information on their conditions beyond that.

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But we have moved. That is the 7th Cavalry has moved into the southern suburbs of Baghdad from the western suburbs yesterday, increasing contact with Iraqi citizens. Iraqi citizens are pouring back from the countryside, appear to be trying to get back into the city of Baghdad.

As soon as they saw U.S. soldiers, there seemed to be no fear, especially as soon as they saw that there was an Arab-language translator. One Iraqi came up with a note that was handwritten in English, and he handed it to the Army [official], and it said, "I am trying to retrieve a dead body. I am unarmed."

In that case, the Army actually provided one Iraqi citizen with an escort to his pickup truck, and they went up the road in a Bradley fighting vehicle. They took this individual up to try to retrieve some bodies of people in his family. Other Iraqis come up, they're simply asking the Army, please let me cross your lines, I have a taxi cab or an automobile just a kilometer away, let me go pick it up, otherwise thieves are going to strip it.

One very interesting encounter in the meetings with Iraqi citizens, again, in the southern suburbs of Baghdad, one man came up to the Army translator, and he said, "I know where there is the body of an American soldier missing in action."

The Army checked very quickly and discovered there were no missing -- or unaccounted for American soldiers, or dead American soldiers. And what this individual said was that he would lead the Americans to the grave where the Fedayeen had buried this American soldier, allegedly.

The problem, of course, was this might have been an ambush, so one officer in the unit informed this individual, this Iraqi, through a translator, if we are being led into an ambush, if we're shot at, I will personally shoot you.

That ended this encounter, and the man just sort of disappeared in the crowd, was never heard from again. Very interesting encounters all day with Iraqi citizens south of Baghdad.

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