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Marines bring food to Iraq city

Doug Mellgren/AP writer

Kyle Norris, a U.S. Navy hospitalman, was helping treat up to 100 civilians a day at a highway crossroads held by the Echo Company of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is trying to keep key supply routes open to the north. He said not many people, except for a few ill babies, appear malnourished.

Nearby, Marines said, a sign painted in English by local residents said, “”We don’t need food, we need freedom.”

As people in many parts of Iraq celebrated hopes of new freedom, hundreds lined up outside a Marine headquarters in Nasariyah awaiting food rations, fresh water and medical help.

Entire families walked away from the compound, clutching their unopened ration bags, smiling and flashing the thumbs-up sign or waving to passing troops. Some children, perhaps having seen Marines eager to buy cigarettes and soft drinks after weeks in the field, tried unsuccessfully to sell their ration packets to the troops.

Echo Company commander Capt. Pete McAleer of San Diego said Marines have received about 7,000 ration packs, each with enough basic food to last a small family for a day. He said his company plans to head into the poorest neighborhoods of Nasiriyah in coming days to distribute rations.

Next week, U.S. military civilian affairs experts are expected in the city to help get utilities running, send key local staff back to work and build the basics of a civilian administration.

On Thursday, Marines began taping up posters around the city with American flags and the Arabic text. The rough translation, according to Norris: “”Help the United States change Iraq into a free Iraq.”

Residents complain that conditions remain difficult in the city, which was bombarded by fighting as U.S. forces battled to take control.

“”We want electricity. We want water – clean water, not the dirty water in the pipes,” Kuwait-born Iraqi Abdullah Najeeb, 27, said earlier this week. “”Now, in this situation, we need things that are useful to the people.’


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