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Marines take fire at Baghdad University

'A far cry from the jubilant crowds'

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CNN's Martin Savidge reports on U.S. Marines coming under heavy fire at Baghdad University. (April 9)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Moving into the Iraqi capital from the east, U.S. Marines came under attack Wednesday afternoon at Baghdad University and stormed onto the campus to return fire.

CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge, embedded with the 1st Marines, 7th Battalion, said the university campus was a battlefield at one point, with black smoke rising from buildings and machine-gun fire ripping past.

"This was not the exact reception ... anticipated," Savidge reported while under fire. "There's a lot of smoke and dust now and fire. ... [It's] a far cry from the jubilant crowds ... just hard to imagine two blocks away."

Savidge said his truck, being towed by a Marine vehicle, was dragged over the wall of the campus. His truck stalled in the middle of the battlefield with deflated tires, and an engineer worked frantically to restart it.

The firefight erupted, he said, suddenly after a long stretch of road where Iraqis gathered on street corners to cheer on the Marines.

After the battle, Savidge said Marines went door-to-door in university buildings to ferret out Iraqi fighters.

The firefight touched off a large cache of anti-aircraft ammunition, he said, that burned and exploded for another 45 minutes after the battle ended.

Two miles away from the campus, Iraqis danced in the city's center after a U.S. Marine armored tank recovery vehicle toppled a larger-than-life statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square.

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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