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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 02:28 GMT
'I just feel extremely lucky to be alive'

By Fred Scott
BBC cameraman

On 6 April, a BBC team in northern Iraq headed by world affairs editor John Simpson witnessed one of the worst friendly fire incidents of the war. A US bomb fired at American and Kurdish soldiers killed 16 people, including a BBC translator. Fred Scott tells BBC News Online his story.

We had talked about getting misidentified and hit by friendly fire from the air, given where we were I think that was a very real risk. However, I was still more worried about taking a rocket through the radiator or driving over a mine.

Blood on the lens of Fred Scott's camera
Blood on the lens of Fred Scott's camera
On the morning of 6 April, we set off in three vehicles and crossed a set of earthen barriers that had been put across the road by the Iraqis.

We kept the car pointed forward, but I couldn't see a single car in front of us and this set my alarm bells going. Every other barrier we had crossed had a carnival of armed guys rolling up and down it.

We had a discussion about whether to go back when we were overtaken by a convoy of vehicles which included a lot of Kurdish forces and American special forces.

We followed them but the convoy came to a gradual halt at a T-junction.

The screams

I could hear a plane circling overhead so I opened the door and got off. I remember looking up and seeing two American planes circling overhead. I'd never seen them that low before - about 500 feet or so and I thought: "at last, an easy picture of one of these things".

There was some sort of a white blast. I don't recall feeling it. I was up and then I was down. I felt scorched.
Fred Scott

Then I saw something fly across my left shoulder with a red nose on it, but it all seemed kind of two-dimensional, like a cartoon bomb. I think I recall hearing someone shout a warning. But the next thing I knew I was face down on the road.

There was some sort of a white blast. I don't recall feeling it. I was up and then I was down. I felt scorched. I just remember kind of wriggling a bit - feeling I had kind of circulation in my limbs and trying to haul myself up.

I don't actually remember hearing very much. So it was really shocking listening to the tape later to hear how much noise there was going around, the screams, the bodies slumped against the horns of the cars, car alarms having gone off.

I started to crawl and just remember thinking "they're coming back, they're going to come back and hit us again," because it's what we'd seen every other time. They would just keep circling and then either they would strafe us or drop another bomb.

Completely numb

Then I thought, the camera. I had no idea where it was. I rolled over and saw it wasn't far from me and got it working. I then just tried to scramble to try and get into some sort of depression in the ground and just hide.

Craig Summers
BBC security man Craig Summers rescues equipment

Looking into the viewfinder I knew I was bleeding, I couldn't get my left eye open and my whole head was completely numb so I didn't know whether I'd actually lost my eye.

At this point me, John Simpson and Dragon Petrovic (a BBC fixer) suddenly found each other. I'd just instantly assumed that we were all dead or half of us were dead.

We pulled ourselves together and moved across the road. One of the Americans said that they'd called off the airplanes.

At this point we saw Craig Summers (BBC security advisor) who told us that he and Tom Giles (Panorama producer) and the drivers were all okay but that there were two people still missing.

Bad news

There was Abdullah (a BBC fixer) who no one had seen, and Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed (BBC translator). It only took a moment for Craig to spot Kamaran who was across the road and very close to the worst of the blast.

He was lying on a little hillock and must have been thrown some distance. Craig immediately ran over to him and got some American medics to look at him but he was in very, very bad shape.

Fred Scott
Fred Scott in Iraq before the friendly fire incident

Craig then managed to stop one of the Kurdish soldiers from stealing our last functioning vehicle and we took it down the hill. It was here that we were told that Abdullah was alright - he'd gone off to hospital.

It was at this point we were told that Kamaran had died, strangely we just kind of milled around for a bit.

To be honest, I don't think I've fully come to terms with it. He was a very young man who hadn't really seen very much in life and he was just snuffed out, and he died a very painful death as well.

Grateful

It's not that any of us were more deserving of death, but I think it's fair to say he was the least deserving. The longer I did this job, it was always inevitable something like this would come.

But weighing it all up it's incredible to think that myself and the rest of us, apart from Kamaran, walked away from it.

TV cars in the convoy on fire after friendly fire incident in Iraq
TV cars in the convoy on fire after friendly fire incident in Iraq

There are so many complicated things involved, it's impossible to know where you even start with explaining how I feel about it.

I'm not particularly angry, not feeling in the least bit sort of forgiving. There's a war, something terrible happened but it clearly didn't need to, but how do you feel?

I just feel extremely lucky and grateful to be alive and basically healthy when so many others aren't. But from there, I don't know.

Panorama: In the line of fire - with John Simpson was broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 9 November, 2003 at 2100 GMT.

SEE ALSO:
In the line of fire
26 Oct 03  |  Panorama
Panorama man saved by phone call
09 Nov 03  |  Panorama
Your comments
07 Nov 03  |  Panorama


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