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On The Scene

Sadler: Shots fired at CNN crew in Tikrit

Sadler
CNN's Brent Sadler

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TIKRIT, Iraq (CNN) -- After scouring two Iraqi military bases and rolling past a desolate area around Tikrit, a CNN crew came under attack Sunday from fighters apparently loyal to Saddam Hussein.

CNN correspondent Brent Sadler reported live on the scene as gunfire rang out and his crew sped to safety, and later recalled the episode.

SADLER: It's been a pretty dramatic day here.

We were able, during the hours of light, to get into the center of Tikrit -- but not before penetrating the outer layers of the ancestral home of Saddam Hussein.

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We were there even as the coalition forces, the U.S. Marines, were heading north toward Tikrit to start a battle to really crush the last [holdout] of Saddam Hussein.

We were able to get into two very major Iraqi military complexes. One was a regular Iraqi army tank unit, a vast area. In this complex, [we found] bunkers of abandoned armored personnel carriers, abandoned tanks. The hatches were open on some of these fighting machines, the soldiers apparently having fled in haste.

There was also a lot of destruction, quite clearly from allied airstrikes over the past days. We certainly heard more air activity when we were on the outskirts of Tikrit.

We also went to a Republican Guard tank regiment. Their fighting machines were not in place, suggesting they may have moved to defend the inner core of Tikrit.

That [presumption] figures with what we're hearing from the latest reports of the U.S. Marine Corps, that five Republican Guard tanks were destroyed by helicopter gunships in the past few hours.

Now when we got into the very center of Tikrit, a [person at a] checkpoint waved us through. It wasn't particularly hostile, nor was it particularly friendly.

We went through, started speaking to some people, then after just a few moments we came under gunfire and had to drive at speed out of Tikrit, running a gauntlet of fire from many, many machine guns.

Video footage rolls, showing Sadler and his crew passing through Tikrit earlier.

SADLER: Stay with us as we move our way [through] Tikrit.

So let's just recap as we go through here: Tikrit no coalition forces, Tikrit no fighting, checkpoint ...

Shots ring out.

OK, that's gunfire. We've just come under attack. Under attack.

We're OK, we're OK. Under fire. That confirms our worst fears.

If you're with us, we've just gone through a checkpoint, we've come under automatic machine gun fire, and we've blown through the checkpoint. Our armed guard pulled his automatic machine gun and opened fire to get us through there.

I think that's as far as we're going to push it today.

End of tape, back to Sadler live on CNN.

SADLER: So clearly Tikrit, at that time of the day, was under the control of Saddam Hussein loyalists.

Behind me, this is one of the two vehicles that were hit. This one took six or seven AK-47 rounds in the back of the doors there.

One of our producers, Maria Fleet, was hit by a piece of bullet. A flak jacket saved her from any injury.

Our driver was slightly injured. But apart from that, no serious injuries or damage to us or our equipment.

I can tell you since we've come back to Erbil, we now have confirmed reports from embedded correspondents on the ground that the U.S. Marine Corps have begun engaging Iraqi resistance in and around Tikrit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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