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U.S. Marines launch dawn attack in Nasiriya

Intelligence officials find cache of Iraqi codes

A corporal of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit guards his camp near Nasiriya.
A corporal of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit guards his camp near Nasiriya.

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Marines near the Iraqi city of Nasiriya have recovered the bodies of some of their comrades who had fallen in battle. CNN's Alessio Vinci reports (March 28)
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NASIRIYA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Marines in this southern city launched a daybreak attack Saturday, using Cobra helicopter gunships, tanks, armored vehicles, mortars and artillery against the Iraqi resistance.

Reports from the fighting indicated a number of Iraqi tanks had been destroyed.

A CNN correspondent embedded with the 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa, reported that the operation is the latest attempt to secure the town. Nasiriya has seen sporadic fighting during the past two days.

Military intelligence officials found what they described as a treasure trove of Iraqi military information, including codes and identification, in a field in the Nasiriya area.

Col. Ron Johnson, operations officer for Task Force Tarawa, said Friday that the Marines were "very close to controlling Nasiriya and making it secure.

"We have the town surrounded and all the main approaches," he said. "[The Marines are] now making very good progress against moderate resistance."

Johnson said the Marines had a difficult task in determining who is "friendly" and who is a "foe" to the coalition forces.

He also said the Marines know that several men in Nasiriya are irregulars, who fire their weapons on coalition forces from the field and then quickly put on civilian clothes and return to town, aware that coalition forces will not fire on civilians.

About 40-50 civilians who have fled Nasiriya said Iraqi paramilitary groups are forcing people to volunteer their sons to fight, according to a Marine officer with the 4th Civil Affairs Group.

"If they didn't, they said they would shoot a sibling," said Marine Capt. Peter Tabash, who speaks fluent Arabic. One civilian told Tabash that a 9-year-old boy was shot because his family refused to cooperate with the paramilitary groups.

-- CNN correspondent Art Harris contributed to this report.

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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