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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 18:54 GMT
Inside Nasiriya's battle zone

By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Nasiriya

It still is a very active battle zone here. It has been another day of artillery attacks and air strikes on targets within the town of Nasiriya.

Marines have been pushing into new areas of the town to establish secure areas and gain some territory.

US marines come under fire during clashes in Nasiriya

It is a very tense difficult relationship with the local population.

Marines have set up sand bag positions and have pushed up mounds of earth for protection within the town, but they are not really interacting with the civilians.

They are aware that anyone could be a real threat. What may look like an ordinary civilian may be a militia preparing to attack them.

There are lots of local residents out and about, people walking in the streets, making their way amongst the bombed buildings.

Being there on the front line reminded me in a way of Northern Ireland, where troops had to distinguish between civilians and members of republican terrorists groups when they were patrolling in hostile areas.

Suicide attacks

Following a suicide attack in Najaf where US personnel were killed, the marines here are increasingly concerned about that threat too.

One of the main activities for this unit on Saturday was the taking of an Iraqi army base.

Marines who secured the compound said they were surprised at what they found.

There were large amounts of ammunition of all kinds, enough to supply a force for weeks. There was everything from machine gun rounds to heavy artillery shells, all kinds of military explosives. This is a really significant arms find.

In another part of the complex they found chemical protection suits and gas masks, and what they believe to be part of a chemical decontamination chamber.

This unit has requested expert advice on what exactly this find contains, they are not jumping to any conclusions and are waiting on the experts to arrive here and make their examination.

This is the second major find of ammunition in Nasiriya this week.

On the military base today the marines did come under sniper fire as they searched the complex.

It does seem as if these kind of attacks are launched by militia forces as opposed to the regular army units.

I am not on the Iraqi side so it is hard to identify who is exactly causing these problems for the marines.

Food supplies

We have heard reports of shortages of food and water amongst more forward units.

There does not seem to be any shortage of supplies here at the moment - combat rations, MRE's as the marines call them.

It is clear there are not enough supplies moving forward up the chain.

This unit has not run out of food or water yet - they still have combat rations, enough for three per day.

Things for me personally have got a little better.

I have managed to secure myself a tent, stops me sleeping in the dirt in the ground.


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