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Ryan Chilcote: Rooting out Fedayeen

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CNN Correspondent Ryan Chilcote

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CNN's Ryan Chilcote was riding with 101st Airborne when its 3rd Brigade mounted an assault on a town called Hillah.
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HILLAH, Central Iraq (CNN) -- CNN correspondent Ryan Chilcote, accompanying the Army 101st Airborne in the U.S.-led campaign to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, spoke with CNN anchor Bill Hemmer on Tuesday, as U.S. soldiers engaged in a fierce fight with Iraqis in al Hillah, a town about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad.

CHILCOTE: Now there's a firefight outside of an agricultural complex. It looks like some agricultural warehouse, the soldiers of 101st Airborne moving into Hillah, a tactic that began at dawn. The goal is to root out Fedayeen fighters who are inside, or who the U.S. military believes are still inside Hillah.

The soldiers have encountered quite a bit of resistance, specifically at this agricultural complex, and before, from small arms fire and RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] fire.

Here at this complex, two fighters, I don't know whether they're Iraqis or some other nationality, came out from a bush and threw a grenade at soldiers. Three U.S. soldiers were injured in the attack. The soldiers have been fighting back pretty intensely. [There are] F-18s in the air and soldiers on the ground clearing buildings right now....

There are two confirmed, I saw them, two confirmed fighters killed here. But it's still not clear of what nationality. The fight continues. The soldiers are moving into the complex. It is on fire, parts of it, at least, are on fire.

They're going to go room-by-room through the complex because they believe they're seeing movement inside of it, until they find all of the fighters.

HEMMER: Ryan, earlier you said this was no surprise. They expected this fight. Is that still the case?

CHILCOTE: That's correct. The 101st, as you probably noticed, has really been charged with cleaning up the cities, making sure they are safeguarded, if you will. Cities at the rear of the 3rd Infantry Division, which has moved on to Baghdad -- Najaf was one of the cities. Karbala was another. And this city, as you know probably ..is home to one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, mentioned in the Bible.

It was it great concern and great, I guess, caution that the U.S. forces are moving into the city to root out Fedayeen fighters that they believe have taken up camp. If this is at all a tell-tale sign of what is to come in the city, this is going to be a big fight. Already there's intense fighting on the outskirts of the city.

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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