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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
'Sickening low' in Iraq war

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

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 he has been fitted with an artificial leg.

In part 15 of his fortnightly BBC News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

Ian Rimell of the Mines Advisory Group
Ian Rimell was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work

There has been no shortage of horrific incidents during the war in Iraq but last week saw a sickening new low in the conflict.

Last week, Ian Rimell, a 53-year-old British mine clearance expert working for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), was travelling with an Iraqi colleague along a main road towards Mosul when their vehicle was ambushed.

Mr Rimell, a recipient of the British Empire Medal, who was married with three grown-up children, was shot dead.

His colleague, Salem Ahmed Mohammed, was critically injured.

I have seen the vehicles that MAG deminers travel in.

I am in no doubt that if a MAG demining team had reached the Northern Iraqi town of Kifri before I did, I would not have lost my leg
They are clearly marked with highly visible stickers.

I cannot believe their jeep was mistaken for a military vehicle.

I had never met Mr Rimell but I was well aware of his work and deeply shocked by his murder.

I became a patron of MAG largely because of its long-standing and unswerving commitment to clearing the minefields and ammunition dumps of Northern Iraq - the area where I was injured by a mine in April.

MAG teams have been working in the area every day since 1992, surveying mined areas, clearing the ground, training local staff to become deminers and educating people about the dangers of mines and unexploded bombs.

Stuart has become a patron of the Mines Advisory group
Stuart has become a patron of the Mines Advisory group

I am in no doubt that if a MAG demining team had reached the Northern Iraqi town of Kifri before I did, I would not have lost my leg.

After the attack on the United Nations compound in Baghdad, MAG decided to continue its work in Iraq, even though some other humanitarian agencies chose to pull out.

Their work, they believed, was too important not to continue.

But now that work is in jeopardy.

MAG is reviewing its operations in the region, looking at how it can continue its vital mission to free communities of the scourge of landmines while still ensuring the safety of its staff in an increasingly volatile environment.

Any scaling back of MAG's operations in Northern Iraq will have one simple, predictable result - more people will be killed and maimed by landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Mine threat

The people who will suffer will not be the coalition forces but ordinary Iraqi men, women and children who have to live with the daily threat of landmines.

I have learnt from personal experience the devastating effects that landmines cause.

They inflict physical and psychological injuries that can take many years to recover from.

Ian Rimell - and the hundreds of other MAG employees in Northern Iraq - chose to risk their lives to try to prevent others from falling victim to mines in the way I did.

My over-riding hope is that their bravery and commitment is not undermined by the senseless actions of cowardly murderers.

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