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Alessio Vinci: Search for fallen comrades

CNN's Alessio Vinci
CNN's Alessio Vinci

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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

NASIRIYA, Iraq (CNN) -- The southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya has been the scene of the fiercest fighting the Marine Corps has been involved in since Vietnam, according to senior Marines. On Saturday, Marines recovered more bodies of colleagues killed in the intense battles.

CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci is embedded with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and reports on the dangerous recovery efforts.

VINCI: U.S. Marines here in Nasiriya are spending a considerable amount of time trying to recover some of the bodies of the fallen comrades killed in action here last Sunday during a bloody firefight between Marines and Iraqi forces.

On Friday, U.S. Marines went back into Nasiriya and recovered what they say were the remains of five, maybe six Marines. Five bodies were recovered inside a burned-out truck [that was] hit by an Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade.

As they were recovering the bodies, Iraqi civilians approached those Marines and pointed them towards two shallow graves. The Marines dug those graves and found the remains of what they say could have been at least two other colleagues.

Then on Saturday morning, taking some considerable risk because they had to go back into town again, U.S. Marines went back in there and they found two more shallow graves, also pointed out by Iraqi civilians. They recovered what they believe are the remains of at least one, maybe two Marines.

U.S. commanders here are now telling us they believe that the bodies of almost all of the nine Marines killed in action, may have been recovered. The U.S. Marines also conducted some house-to-house searches near the site where the ambush took place, where that armored vehicle was hit, because they believe that during the firefight, some had to take cover inside one of the houses.

When they went into the houses today, looking for some more bodies, all they could find were some personal belongings. The military flak jackets, some MOPP suits, chemical suits, gas masks and some mail that the Marines had written or received from their families back home.

From here, the bodies of the Marines are handed over to the mortuary affairs [to] conduct a DNA test for positive identification and then prepare the bodies for the final journey back home to the United States.

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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