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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
'War is messy and frightening'

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

Stuart catches up with war reporter Jamie Tarabay
Stuart catches up with war reporter Jamie Tarabay
BBC producer Stuart Hughes lost part of his right leg after stepping on a landmine in northern Iraq.

Stuart, 31, has returned to Cardiff, where has been fitted with an artificial leg.

In part eight of his weekly BBC News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

"Before the war began, many people asked me whether I was scared about the prospect of going out to Iraq.

I always insisted I wasn't.

Every journalist wants to be where the story is, at the centre of the action.

When the "action" is in a difficult or dangerous country, we somehow manage to persuade ourselves that we won't get hurt, that we'll come home safely.

Accidents happen to someone else, I thought. I was wrong.

If we didn't, we'd probably never get on the plane in the first place.

Even when journalists like the Australian cameraman Paul Moran and ITN's Gaby Rado died in Northern Iraq, I still believed I'd be safe.

Accidents happen to someone else, I thought.

I was wrong.

Since I was injured I've felt - for the first time - a real sense of fear for my friends and colleagues still working in Iraq and elsewhere.

With coalition forces coming under repeated attack, the situation on the ground seems more unpredictable than ever.

Safety fears

Over the weekend I caught up with a friend with whom I worked in the Middle East, Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press.

She was passing through the UK on her way to Baghdad.

A few months ago I would have envied Jamie for being asked to take on such an exciting assignment.

I felt my stomach sink through the floor. My ears rang. I couldn't concentrate.

Now, though, I just fear for her safety.

This week the BBC broadcast a fascinating documentary, Iraq: The Cameraman's Story.

Half of the film was made by an American cameraman, Fred Scott.

Powerful memories

I travelled across Turkey and into Northern Iraq with Fred and spent a month with him in the town of Arbil just before the start of the war.

Fred's story focuses on the "friendly fire" incident in which he, the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson, and the rest of his team were injured just a few days after I stepped on the landmine.

Not only did it bring back vivid and powerful memories of my accident - the confusion, the face down in the dirt, the panicked shouts of the Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers.

But it also reminded me of the moment I heard that Fred and his team had been hit.

TV report

It was the morning after I got back to Britain. I had just been told by my surgeon that I was going to lose my foot.

I was still groggy from the anaesthetic I'd had the day before.

The first thing I saw from my hospital bed when I switched on the television was a headline reporting what had happened.

I felt my stomach sink through the floor. My ears rang. I couldn't concentrate.

'War is great'

I was convinced the whole team had been wiped out but before long John Simpson was live on air, describing what he called "a scene from hell".

Before he died, Kaveh Golestan would outrage his colleagues by saying things like "war is great".

He insisted that it was only in dangerous places that he felt truly alive.

We try to pretend this is true.

But it's not.

War is messy and it's frightening - and all too often our friends get killed."

Telling the children
26 Jun 03  |  Wales
Learning to walk again
19 Jun 03  |  Wales
Taking the first steps
11 Jun 03  |  Wales
Back on the road
05 Jun 03  |  Wales
Face to face with landmine
29 May 03  |  Wales
Down to earth with a bump
22 May 03  |  Wales

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