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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

War in Iraq: 7th Marines Advance

Aired April 6, 2003 - 06:06   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 talk to Martin Savidge right now who is embedded with the Marines. He is somewhere southeast of Baghdad in the suburbs there.
Martin, bring us up to date from your vantage point.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Carol.

Marines continue to drive in to the southeast portion of Baghdad, as you point out. It has been at times slow and very, almost painful process, painful by the fact that the process has just been moving along so very, very carefully here.

We've now come up against this facility, not sure exactly what it is, although it's either, by its outward appearance, some sort of military installation or some have even suggested that it was a prison. A lot of it is either burned, gutted out or taken damage. There is a lot of artillery that has been flying through the air around here, and it's all U.S. Marine artillery being fired forward to support operations farther in on Baghdad itself. There has been heavy artillery throughout the morning hours. It was clear that as the Marines push forward, they are running into opposition, nothing they say they can not handle, but there is a fight on their hands -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Martin, did you see this Abrams tank that was disabled?

SAVIDGE: We did. Yes, we passed by that a couple of hours ago this morning. And the word we had was that there was apparently shot at it with an RPG. And they were -- it was called, what was it, a mobility target where they essentially hit one of the tracks of that tank and that would essentially stop it in place. Probably because they were under fire, the mechanics couldn't get out and repair it. So rather than leave it behind for somebody else to maybe use, it looks like that they set it afire using some sort of fragmentary grenades or heat grenades and burned it quite severely.

We don't know if anybody was injured when it was struck, we don't know the fate of the crew. We understand that there were at least two other tanks of the 5th Marines that were struck about 48 hours ago in this general vicinity. And as we point out, the fighting still goes on in this area -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, I know it's hard to take out one of these Abrams tanks, so I was wondering what kind of weaponry the Iraqis are using?

SAVIDGE: Well, it can be done with an RPG, if you get a lucky shot, if you hit the tank treads or areas. There are a few vulnerable places. Normally it's not a big deal because the tank treads are easily replaced and they can do it right there on the spot. However, if it's nighttime, if you're in the middle of a firefight, clearly that's not something you're going to waste your time doing. You got to keep the column moving. So what it appears may have happened was that if the tank was disabled, U.S. Marines decided to make sure it was permanently disabled and press on. And it was just too dangerous to probably work on -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I understand. I wanted to ask you, too, about supplies and if the Marines were getting enough food and water?

SAVIDGE: No problem there. Supplies continue to pour along. In fact, we're part of a supply column here. And the best news of the day today was the mail got through, and that's a clear sign that they have not yet problems with transporting supplies. If you can get mail in the hands of the U.S. Marines, morale all of a sudden has shot up by about 100 percent, I would say, at least for those Marines that got a letter from home -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I wanted to ask you about this because I know you've been moving through a large part of Iraq and I wondered, as you encounter civilians along the way, if the reception changed as you moved from place to place?

SAVIDGE: Well reception is, for the most part, subdued at this point. I mean we don't get wild cheering crowds coming out. You do get a lot of onlookers, especially when you pass through any sort of heavily populated area or village. Sometimes people give you a thumbs up, others wave, some people blow kisses at you, some people shout I love you, but it's not as if you were running in to a heroes welcome. There aren't many people who speak that much English. Most people tend to be walking rather subdued on the streets waving white flags as they go about, hoping it'll protect them from some sort of military action. So I think people, at this point, are being very guarded. They're not sure what to make of things -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We can understand that. Martin Savidge reporting live from the southeast suburbs of Baghdad.

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