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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Abed Takoush - our tower of strength
Line of fire: Israeli tanks leave Southern Lebanon
By Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen

(Click here to read Jim Muir's tribute)

I've just been to the funeral of my friend Abed Takoush.

He was killed at about midday on Tuesday, 24 May by an Israeli shell.

Abed loved news and in the end he died for it

He was sitting in his car, phoning his family when an Israeli tank crew decided he was a target worth destroying.

Abed had worked for the BBC in Beirut for 25 years and between times he helped hundreds of other journalists. He's being mourned in Lebanon and around the world.

Abed loved his work, he loved the scent of a story, he loved news and in the end he died for it.

Being in dangerous places was part of the job. For his whole career there was no other way to do it.

Hezbollah guerrillas have claimed tanks left behind by Israelis
That didn't mean that he took stupid risks. Abed was as careful as it was possible to be.

His business card said Abed Takoush, producer/driver. Abed was not the kind of guy who just got you from A to B. I can't imagine trying to cover the news here in Lebanon without him.

He knew where to go, who to talk to, where we could cover the war without getting swept up in it.

Four years ago, when Israeli gunners massacred more than 100 defenceless Lebanese civilians sheltering in a UN base at Cana, Abed was a tower of strength.

One day we were with a UN convoy that came under heavy Israeli shellfire.

In the chaos, noise and fear as we filmed, the camera team and I became separated from him.

We jumped into a UN armoured personnel carrier. Immediately I knew it was the wrong thing to do.


I suddenly realised that he would be looking for us. But by then the APC was racing away.

When we were all reunited safe and sound only a couple of minutes later, Abed said smiling but rather disappointed: "Jeremy, didn't you trust me? I'd never leave a crew."

I apologised for about two days until he told me to shut up.

I always thought Abed would be there to meet me at the airport in Beirut. To take us to the South or wherever it was happening. To make us laugh and to boast about his driving.

A couple of hours before he was killed after a particularly hair-raising manoeuvre I closed my eyes as he squeezed his Mercedes through the last critical gap.

He said one of his clients had called him Michael Schumacher. Yes, Abed said, like Schumacher, except Schumacher drives on empty roads. Let him try it here in Lebanon.

Abed Takoush leaves a wife and three sons and friends who will never forget what he did for them.

here to return to Jeremy Bowen's tribute)

Correspondent Jim Muir, who covered the crisis in Lebanon from its inception in 1975, adds this personal memoir from Tehran, where he is now based

I was listening with half an ear when I heard what was almost a throwaway line on the BBC World TV bulletin : "...and the driver, Abed Takoush, was killed."

How often had I heard similar phrases from anonymous tragedies around the world. But the name hit me like a sledgehammer.

I swore badly, switched off the set, threw the remote control onto a seat, and slumped into my chair, holding my head in my hands as memories and thoughts and Abed's voice crowded through my mind and the tears came.

When being kidnapped was a real possibility, I felt instinctively that if I were threatened, Abed would fight for me

Abed, sticking his boggle-eyed, scowling, brooding face around my door and intoning "Naaaaam!" - "Yes!" - which became our catchphrase for years.

How that dark face used to light up as he cackled hysterically at something that caught his fancy, which happened often.

Except after his sister was blown to pieces when one of General Aoun's shells hit a West Beirut parking lot during his "War of Liberation" in 1988. They only found about half of her.

After that, Abed went quiet and brooded even more for a long time.


Then one day he laughed again. He often reminded me later that it was something I said, though I can't remember what it was.

I suppose I must have known Abed since the late 70s, when I joined the NBC/BBC office in Beirut as a stringer. He was one of our pool of four or five drivers.

During the 80s, as others fell away for one reason or another, Abed was always there.

I don't know how many trips we made south, north and east as the Lebanese crisis mutated through its many contortions.

Own way with English

I came to trust Abed in a rare way. In those bad times, when being kidnapped was a real possibility, for some reason - perhaps it was that dark, brooding quality - I felt instinctively that if I were threatened, Abed would fight for me.

Abed had his own way with English. Once he left me a message that a Mr Bosh Dask had called from the BBC. It took a while to figure out that it was what we now call the Intake desk at Bush House.

In 1985, when I got back to Beirut from watching the Israelis pulling out of Sidon (he'd stayed in town for some reason), he stuck his head round my door and asked, "Israelians f*** off?" Yes, they had.

Ever after that, a withdrawal - and there were more - became known to us as f***-offs. One of the first thoughts that came to me was the sickening irony that this last of all the "Israelian f***-offs" should have taken Abed away from us too.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Middle East
BBC driver killed in Lebanon
24 May 00 | Middle East
Israel quits Lebanon
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