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Marines 'learn lesson' from suicide bombing

By JACK REDDEN

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- U.S. forces in Beirut have learned their lesson from the Oct. 23 suicide bombing that killed 241 Marines and lax security that drew scathing comments in a Pentagon report on the attack is being beefed up, a Marine said Wednesday.

Massive concrete barriers, rolls of barbed wire and around-the-clock sandbag filling attests to the U.S. Marines' obsession with never again presenting what Wednesday's Pentagon report termed a 'lucrative target.' 'One of the lessons we learned from October is that we have to be prepared for the unexpected,' said Marine Maj. Dennis Brooks. 'We will continue to fortify our positions.'

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The report, conducted by a five member commission appointed by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, blamed the entire military chain of command for failing to respond to worsening violence with added security measures.

Marines no longer are concentrated in one spot, such as the headquarters building where 350 servicemen were sleeping when a truck barrelled through the perimeter fence to detonate with the force of 6 tons of explosives.

Marines are spread around their base en:ircling Beirut airport and all the living quarters have been hardened. Mounds of sandbags rise above them. Six-hour stints on watch are followed by a few hours of filling more bags.

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No truck could ram through a fence into the Marine base as in the dawn suicide attack. Now impregnable 'dragon's teeth' -- 4-foot square blocks of concrete -- line the road to Beirut airport where the fatal blow came.

Almost no vehicles are allowed onto the grounds and every person is searched. One photographer had his hair checked by the guards at the gate.

Twice journalists who tried to enter the grounds through the wrong entrance were fired on.

The first time in November cost only the tires of the taxi, but a Washington, N.C., television crew arriving for Christmas filming was not so lucky. The driver was wounded by bullets and the station anchorman, Joseph Corcoran, was cut by flying glass.

Mounds of earth protect the Marines against both vehicles and the snipers that slip into the decaying buildings of the Shiite Moslem neighborhoods adjoining their positions.

'Concertina' wire -- coils of wire with razor-like projections that make barbed-wire appear tame -- are strung around the base. 'Tank traps' -- steel I-beams welded into tripods -- block any possible gaps in the other barricades.

The suicide attack on the U.S. embassy on April 18 should have provided the Marines with the first sign of what was coming.

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Although at least 63 people died in the blast, and Shiite Moslems had been suspected in earlier attacks, there was little effort to drastically improve security at the Marine base adjoining the Shiite area.

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