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Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Sunday, 6 April 2003 16:45 UK

'This is just a scene from hell'

John Simpson
The bomb landed just feet away from John Simpson

The BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson was accompanying a convoy of US special forces and Kurdish fighters when it came under attack from an American warplane.

At least 10 people were killed, including a Kurdish translator working with the BBC team, Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed.

Moments after the 'friendly fire' attack, in which he was wounded, John Simpson broadcast live by satellite telephone on the BBC news channel, News 24.

This is a really bad own goal by the Americans
John Simpson
"Well it's a bit of a disaster... I was in a convoy of eight or 10 cars in northern Iraq coming up to a place that has just recently been captured. American special forces in a truck - two trucks I think - beside them, plus a very senior figure ..."[brother of Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party]

Simpson to US soldier: "Shut up. I'm broadcasting! Oh yes, I'm fine - am I bleeding?"

US soldier: "Yes, you've got a cut."

Simpson: "I thought you were going to stop me. I think I've just got a bit of shrapnel in the leg, that's all. OK, I will - thanks a lot.

"That was one of the American special forces medics - I thought he was going to try to stop me reporting. I've counted 10 or 12 bodies around us. So there are Americans dead. It was an American plane that dropped the bomb right beside us - I saw it land about 10 feet, 12 feet away I think.

Wrecked vehicle after apparent US air attack on coalition forces

"This is just a scene from hell here. All the vehicles on fire. There are bodies burning around me, there are bodies lying around, there are bits of bodies on the ground. This is a really bad own goal by the Americans.

"We don't really know how many Americans are dead. There is ammunition exploding in fact from some of these cars. A very senior member of the Kurdish Republic's government who also may have been injured."

TV presenter Maxine Mawhinney: "John, just to recap for the viewers, an American plane dropped a bomb on your convoy of American special forces - many dead, many injured?"

Simpson: "I am sorry to be so excitable. I am bleeding through the ear and everything but that is absolutely the case. I saw this American convoy, and they bombed it.

They hit their own people - they may have hit this Kurdish figure - very senior, and they've killed a lot of ordinary characters, and I am just looking at the bodies now and it is not a very pretty sight."


Later, John Simpson filed this report on how the attack unfolded

The officer in charge of the American special forces saw an Iraqi tank in the plain about a mile away from us, and it was I think firing in our direction - and he called in an air strike to deal with the tank.

I saw two F15 American planes circling quite low overhead and I had a bad feeling about it, because they seemed to be closer to us than they were to the tank.

As I was looking at them - this must sound extraordinary but I assure you it is true, I saw the bomb coming out of one of the planes - and I saw it as it came down beside me.

map of nothern Iraq

It was painted white and red. It crashed into the ground about 10 or 12 metres from where I was standing.

It took the lower legs off Kamaran, our translator, I got shrapnel in parts of my body. I would have got a chunk of shrapnel in my spine had I not been wearing a flak jacket, and it was buried deep in the Kevlar when I checked it.

Our producer had a piece of shrapnel an inch long taken out of his foot. But apart from that and ruptured eardrums which is painful but not serious, and a few punctures from shrapnel, the rest of us were all right.

But our translator was killed and he was a fine man.

I think what probably happened was that there was a burned out Iraqi tank at the crossroads and I suspect that either the pilots got the navigational details wrong, which is possible, but I think it is probably more likely one of them saw the burned out Iraqi tank, assumed that was what was to be hit - and dropped the bomb.

The planes circled round I shouted out at the American special forces "Tell them to go away - tell them it's us - don't let them drop another bomb."

It was a mistake. They were so apologetic afterwards, as you can imagine.

The medics did what they could for all of us. And they kept on saying "I am really sorry about this" as though it was their fault. But these things happen if you are fighting a war. Mistakes happen.



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The BBC's John Simpson
"The bomb had landed only 10 yards away from us"


The BBC's John Simpson, moments after the attack




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