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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Shot reporter on Iraq 'failures'
By Clare Gabriel
BBC Wales News website

Frank Gardner
Gardner is "cautiously optimistic" for Iraq's long-term future
As violence continues in Iraq, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner has criticised the coalition's post-invasion planning.

Gardner, who survived an attack by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia almost exactly two years ago, was talking about his new book at the Hay Festival.

He said he initially had mixed feelings about the US-UK occupation of Iraq.

But "the failure to plan for Day Two has completely let down the Iraqi people," he said.

Although he said there were signs for optimism under the new government in Iraq, the coalition had made a number of mistakes, including "sending in the Z Team".

In an honest account of his own horrific experience at the hands of al-Qaeda, which left him partly paralysed, Gardner said nothing had turned him against the Middle East and its people.

Nearly every bit of news that comes out of Middle East in bad news but most of the Middle East is a happy and largely peaceful place
Frank Gardner

He described the "totally opportunistic" shooting, which killed his cameraman Simon Cumbers and left him critically injured on 6 June 2004.

Two al-Qaeda hit teams pulled up by chance, while he was reporting in a Riyadh suburb.

He was shot in the shoulder and leg and, when the second team turned up, after a brief discussion in Arabic, they pumped four more bullets into his body.

Being shot, he said, was like "a giant hand was picking you up and throwing you back with tremendous force".

He also described the deafening roar of the pistol and the contrasting tinkling sound of spent cartridges as they fell onto the ground.

Two years on, Gardner has recovered enough to take family skiing holidays with his wife and two young daughters.

After an army training course for disabled skiiers, Gardner said he was able to tackle slopes in an adapted bob-ski.

Frank Gardner at the Hay festival
Gardner said skiing with his family was "a fantastic moment"

He told the packed Hay audience: "Yes, the Gardners are back on the slopes. It was just a fantastic moment!"

He said his life had turned around opportunities. A chance meeting with the Arabian explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger in his youth, led to a life of fascination with the Arab world and a degree in the language.

Then after a career in banking in Bahrain ended with a promotion he did not like, he took the plunge into journalism.

He said five of the al-Qaeda cell which shot him were now dead, while the sixth was in jail facing trial and would probably be executed.

Affinity

Gardner, whose account of his experiences is called Blood And Sand, praised the "first class investigation" by the Saudi authorities into the shooting.

He is "cautiously optimistic" about the long term future of Iraq but criticised failures of policy following the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

He said it had led to a power vacuum with the result that Iraq was teetering on the brink of civil war.

Despite his near-death experience, his affinity for the Middle East remained unaffected.

He said: "Nearly every bit of news that comes out of Middle East in bad news but most of the Middle East is a happy and largely peaceful place".




SEE ALSO:
Shot BBC reporter returns to work
18 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Profile: Frank Gardner
07 Jun 04 |  UK
Two BBC men shot in Saudi capital
07 Jun 04 |  Middle East



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