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CNN BREAKING NEWS

3-7th Cavalry 25 Miles from Baghdad

Aired April 2, 2003 - 07:36   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to break away from the CENTCOM briefing for just a bit.
I'm Carol Costello.

Walter Rodgers, traveling with the 7th Cavalry, has

Breaking news to tell you about -- Walter, tell us.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Carol.

All day long we've been traveling with the 7th Cavalry in the general direction of Baghdad. All day long we've seen this mighty army rolling in the direction of Baghdad. At one point on the horizon, we saw as far as you could see in either direction this huge convoy of trucks and fighting vehicles stretching as far as you could see, perhaps 10 miles in either direction along the horizon.

Earlier in the day, Army sources tell CNN that the 1st and 3rd Brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division took the Iraqi town of Karbala with very little effort. The 1st Brigade rolled through firing. There were a few tanks. It had no trouble securing the town. Immediately, the 3rd Brigade took over. After that, 3rd Brigade has now secured the Iraqi town of Karbala. There was supposed to be a Republican Guard unit there. If it was, it did not up much of a fight.

Throughout the day we've seen over 100 Iraqi prisoners of war taken, more than a few Iraqis dead lying beside the road.

A few minutes ago, the 7th Cavalry Apache troop, with which I am traveling across a big field, probably within a radius of 25 miles of Baghdad, came across these -- an Iraqi anti-aircraft unit, three or four guns, .20 millimeter, old Soviet vintage. Immediately the 7th Cavalry opened up with tank fire and with mortars, took them out, killed probably 20 Iraqis. When some of the Iraqis fled to the farm house just moments ago, then the Army just opened up with a .25 millimeter cannon and destroyed whatever was left of that Iraqi anti- aircraft unit.

It's been a very busy day. There are elements of the 7th Cavalry now probably within a 25 mile radius of Baghdad and there are elements of the 3rd Infantry Division which are probably even closer than that -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Walter, just to clarify for our audience, everything you're telling us is OK with the military, right? RODGERS: I believe so. I've been discussing it with my officer on scene the whole day.

COSTELLO: And you were speaking of fighting there. As the troops got closer to Baghdad, it was thought that Saddam's best soldiers would be there. But you say this has been easier than expected, if I could put it in those terms?

RODGERS: Army sources told us that the Air Force has so badly downgraded the Medina division just south of Baghdad that other units, other divisions have had to be folded into it. There has had to be a consolidation of the Iraqi units so badly have they been hammered. And as I say, there is this huge army rolling in the generally direction of Baghdad. You can, we've seen fighting all across a broad front. Earlier in the day, last night in Karbala, there was an enormous American bombing of that area and artillery. Again, the Iraqis, if they're standing and fighting, aren't making much of a fight of it at this point.

It may get worse when they get close to Baghdad, but, again, heavy Air Force bombing day after day appears to have, to use the Army's word, attrited, that is to say, badly downgraded the units which are supposed to be defending Baghdad.

What we're seeing here where we are is essentially pockets of resistance, but nothing overly serious -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Walter, we'll let you get back to work.

Thank you for that breaking news.

In case you're wondering, Karbala is about 50 miles south of Baghdad.

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