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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
'Mock executions' for UK hostage
Mr Brandon was released after a 20-hour ordeal
James Brandon after his release with Sheikh Assal al-Basri
A British journalist taken hostage by masked gunmen in Iraq says he was subjected to a series of mock executions during his ordeal.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, James Brandon also said he managed to escape from his kidnappers - only to be captured again shortly afterwards.

Mr Brandon, from London, was abducted from his Basra hotel on Thursday night.

He was released the following day following the intervention of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

In a front-page article for the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Brandon describes how he was snatched from his hotel room in the middle of the night by a group of gunmen.

He says he was pistol-whipped and accused of being an American or Israeli spy by his captors, who then began staging the mock executions.

Then came a chilling silence, broken only by the terrifying metallic click of the trigger being pulled
James Brandon
"All I could feel was the cold steel of the muzzle being pressed against my temple," he wrote.

"Then came a chilling silence, broken only by the terrifying metallic click of the trigger being pulled."

Escape

Mr Brandon says he was then taken to a house, where he was bound and gagged and left alone in a dark room.

He says he managed to untie himself and escape after threatening a woman at knifepoint in "an Indiana Jones moment".

He fled to a nearby government building, only to be recaptured there by the gunmen.

Mr Brandon and a masked gunman
The gunmen threatened on video to kill Mr Brandon
The 23-year-old says he was beaten again and driven to a deserted building.

"It seemed clear what was going to happen: they were going to kill me," Mr Brandon wrote.

He was then made to appear in a video, in which his captors threatened to execute him unless US troops pulled out of Najaf within 24 hours.

"I had assumed that it would be my fate ... still I hoped it wouldn't come to that. I was still planning to escape and kill them all," he wrote.

Instead, Mr Brandon was freed after his abduction was condemned by Mr Sadr.

It seemed clear what was going to happen: they were going to kill me
After 20 hours at the hands of the gunmen, Mr Brandon was handed over to Mr Sadr's representative in Basra and then to British Military Police.

Despite his ordeal, Mr Brandon said he planned to continue working as a journalist in Iraq.

But he added: "Next time, I just want to do the reporting. I have no desire to be the story again."

Meanwhile, another newspaper has reported Mr Brandon had his name changed by deed poll in 2002.

The Sunday Mirror says his real name was Andrew Nassim, but that he took the name of a former fellow school student.

The paper quotes his sister Laura as saying: "Our name is Arabic so he changed it to make work easier."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Keith Breene
"He became convinced... he was going to be beheaded"



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