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WAR IN THE GULF : Tragic price to capturing vital bridge.

US MARINES braved heavy gunfire yesterday to repair a bridge vital to the advance into Baghdad.

Men from the 3rd Battalion worked to patch up a 6ft hole that Iraqis had blown in the spans over a tributary of the River Tigris.

But the Marines' dramatic river crossing came just an hour after the 3rd Battalion suffered their heaviest loss of the conflict.

Two men died and two were wounded when a shell tore off the top of their assault vehicles.

Once the bridge was back in operation, battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel BP McCoy told his men: "Now we can get at 'em. They can't hide behind a river any more."

Marines moved quickly to secure hundreds of walled homes and date palm groves around the bridge.

But more Iraqis were killed as the troops went on the alert for suicide attacks against US forces.

The few pedestrians and vehicles that appeared got warning shots to stop. But an old man, alone and appearing disoriented, kept faltering forward with his cane after three warning shots. Then he was shot dead.

"After you give the final warning shot, shoot them dead," an officer instructed.

"They shouldn't be out. They got the memo," a rifleman snickered.

A van and a taxi were also sprayed with bullets after they failed to stop.

A man fell out of the driver's door of the taxi and was shot as he crawled towards the Marines.

It was unclear whether he was an attacker or just a confused civilian.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 8, 2003
Words:252
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