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CNN Presents: Stories from Iraq

Aired January 29, 2005 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Live from Baghdad, I'm Anderson Cooper. Three hours until polls open here in Baghdad and in cities across Iraq. The city of Baghdad itself is in effect under martial law condition. Bridges have been closed down. Tanks patrol the streets. U.S. military personnel and Iraqi security forces are out in overwhelming numbers.
This is very restricted freedom of movement here on the Streets right now. A dusk to dawn curfew is still in effect and the country's international borders have been shut down. A state of emergency which has been in effect which was supposed to end on February 8th, has now been extended for another 30 days by the government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The insurgents who have vowed to stop these elections, who have vowed to wash the streets of Baghdad with the blood of anyone who votes, fired rockets, fired a rocket at the U.S. occupied green zone, the area where the U.S. embassy is and where Prime Minister Allawi's office is.

The rocket hit the U.S. embassy complex killing two Americans, one civilian, one military, wounding five other U.S. personnel, though none of them seriously. There have been also three attacks on polling stations by gunmen in the city of Baghdad itself. Five Iraqi security forces have been wounded. The elections start in three hours. All of Baghdad sits and waits and watches, wondering what the dawn will bring. Right now CNN presents, "Iraq, Under Fire."

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Iraq, the stakes couldn't be higher than right now, right now when the prospects for peace, let alone democracy are uncertain at best. Welcome to this special edition of "CNN PRESENTS." I'm Aaron Brown.

Faced with an untamed insurgency and an imperfect election, Iraq remains poised on the brink. Over the next hour, we'll zoom in from the big picture to focus on the detail, a rare street-level view of the way it really is, in what really is a war zone. These are first person accounts from CNN correspondents on the ground. Their stories of mayhem and miracles, stories of life and of loss, stories of a nation under fire. We begin with CNN's Nic Robertson in the north of Iraq, the city of Mosul where the hunt is on for suspected insurgent hideouts.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With an election date now set, the stakes for eradicating intimidation have been raised, making the success of raids like this even more critical. I was assigned to Mosul in mid-November and I'd been covering the offensive in Falluja, but it appeared when that offensive began, that trouble began to start in Mosul. The vast majority of the city's 4,000 police force has deserted their post. Military stations now are just shells. Many of them have walls blown out. The vehicles have been set on fire. Mosul was a place that the Baath party drew quite a lot of its senior members from. They (INAUDIBLE) with Saddam Hussein and they live in some of the more prosperous parts of Mosul.

These are the places that the troops are going in to target.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Tell me where the hidden stuff is.

ROBERTSON: You have these sort of richer form (INAUDIBLE) who they believe are sort of behind the inspiration and funding for the insurgencies. The first thing that I witnessed was what's known as a rock drone (ph) and this is where there's an operation planned and the streets are marked out on the ground with white tape and little wooden replica houses have been put out there with the target house clearly marked. And the soldiers walk through it.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We go over all of the types of risk that we might see out on the objective.

ROBERTSON: Captain Robert Lankey (ph) was the commander of the unit that I was imbedded with. Task force Olympia which is a strike every day. It was very impressive to watch them go through the briefings, checking, checking, checking that all the men under his command understood what they had to do, not just out of professionism (sic) getting the job done, but out of the personal concern, to make sure that everyone comes back alive from every operation, that everybody is safe.

The idea of (INAUDIBLE) is to prepare the soldiers for what's going to happen, but it was raining. The rain was coming down. It was the beginning of winter. It was really beginning to feel cold and it was clear that this was going to be uncomfortable operation for the troops.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I need to tell you guys to suck it up and do your job. They're going to be cold. They're going to be wet, but coming back to a warm bed.

ROBERTSON: They're only at that stage, only two months into a 12- month tour, 10 months to go. You know, just before Christmas. As we went through on the first few raids, it became apparent, literally the first house we went into, after about 15 minutes, became apparent that while they were on the right street, they had the wrong house.

What was very interesting about being on that raid, and this was all about trying to find somebody who was involved in intimidating Iraqis.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Do you know where the house is or do one of these gentlemen know?

ROBERTSON: We saw the man in the house really was too afraid to want to give the troops any information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don't put me in...

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I have to put you in this position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fourth door you can shut.

ROBERTSON: They did eventually manage to convince him that it would be better, better for the people of Mosul, better for the people of Iraq if he told them.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: The fourth door, which way?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: With the name (ph) being hit over there and he pointed out this, it gives us enough information to act on this house as well.

ROBERTSON: Of course, when we got to that house, the men of the family weren't there. The women in the house said they ran the farmhouse. The family was saying these men are farmers. They didn't find (ph) our story at all. When the soldiers went out and of course we had to travel with them. We have to get out with them quick. They're the security in the area so when they go, we have to get... I'm going to stand here 30 seconds and I'm going to try and talk to this family and find out what they think about what the troops are doing. (INAUDIBLE) When the soldiers come, they think they're trying to make Mosul safer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. I know. Your people are a kind people. I know that.

ROBERTSON: But as I talked to this particular family, they immediately associated me with the troops and I wasn't really confident that they were really opening up and telling me what they really thought. I think that they were telling me what they wanted me to hear.

The more time I spent with this particular unit and the more time I spent with Captain Lankey, the more I grew to respect the professionalism of the job that he was doing. And I said to him, what's really important for you? In the months ahead, you have a long way to go here. He said, what I really want to go to do is to get, bring all my men home alive, so he doesn't have to call relatives back home, so there aren't empty chairs around the next briefing. And of course the day that I left, I flew back to Baghdad and I heard that two soldiers were killed in Mosul and when the names were released and the unit name was released a couple of days later, I realized immediately that these were Captain Robert Lankey's men and I knew that this was, this was what he really didn't want to happen.



BROWN: We now return to "Under Fire: Stories from the New Iraq." BRENT SADLER, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are times in some conflicts where particular human tragedies really get to you. And it was one of those occasions surrounding a tears to triumph story of a young 4-year old Iraqi boy called Baka ali Hussein (ph). He was out playing one day when he was caught in the crossfire, when U.S. troops responded to an attack and he was hit by a bullet and the bullet wedged in the base of his skull in his head. Now he carried that bullet fragment for seven months and that was having a devastating effect on young Baka ali's life.

He was having serious problems walking. He couldn't talk clearly. He was beginning to have his hearing and eyesight affected. So this little boy seemed set to suffer a life doomed by growing incapacity to live a normal life.

Now CNN ran a story about Baka Ali Hussein. The tragic circumstances of one little boy's ordeal in the ordeal of Iraq as a nation and as a result of that piece, that first story that ran, there was a response. Greece wanted to intervene to try to improve the plight of this little boy. He would be taken by the Greek authorities out of Baghdad, be flown to Greece to have an operation to remove this bullet from the base of his skull. So Baka Ali was flown out of Iraq and taken for several weeks to Athens to have his operation done.

I picked up the story on a bright sunny day at Baghdad international airport waiting for Baka Ali Hussein to return home from this operation. How was he going to look? So there I was with my cameraman waiting on the tarmac, feeling I hoped within my heart that this would be a happy ending to this story for at least one family in Iraq.

The airplane came to land so the mom, dad, boy came down the steps of this charter plane and amazingly the little boy was able to walk much better and we just let them walk past us to go into the airport terminal.

While inside the airport terminal, there were some unpredictable moments because obviously I wanted to try and talk to Baka ali himself to see how his speech was, was it impaired in the way that it was before? His mom and dad were beaming. They were very proud of this little boy and the ordeal he'd been through. So I squatted down on my haunches to come down to a 4-year-olds eye level, started trying to talk to him.

Now instead of trying to engage in conversation, Baka Ali just through his arms around me. He started to kiss me. He was saying, he was speaking Arabic saying thank you, thank you, thank you. Not once but several times he came backwards and forwards, hugged me around the neck and really it was a heart wrenching moment, because you had this small child, one innocent victim of the war as a whole in Iraq, being plucked out from the obscurity of probably have a life doomed by invalidity, coming back with renewed hope.

When he finished hugging and kissing me, his smiling and waving at everybody, including the Greek diplomat. He kissed the Greek diplomat as well and the diplomat was somewhat taken aback by that I think as well. We were all surprised by what he was doing and he was running around a happy little boy, 4-year old boy as you'd expect him to be. And then we followed their vehicle to where he lived in a pretty poor neighborhood in Baghdad. And the whole street was out, making 50-60 people. It was chaos when Baka Ali came out of the vehicle, there was chaos and sweets cascaded, toffees, candies, cascaded on this little boy's head.

We don't get many really good, happy stories of good endings in war and the tragedy of war. This was one of them.


BROWN: The handover of sovereignty and the first courtroom appearance of Saddam Hussein, two milestones in the brief history of the new Iraq. U.S. officials saw both as critical stepping stones on a path to a peaceful democracy of the country. But as it turned out, neither event had the desired impact. The hurried hand over took place in near secrecy. Saddam's courtroom appearance did little to stem the insurgency. CNN's Christiane Amanpour witnessed both events.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The transfer of power from American occupation to Iraqi sovereignty took place at the very end of June. One morning, I came into the office. It was very early. I think it was about 7:00 a.m. and I received word that we were called the green zone.

Heavily fortified, sort of one island they hoped of safety in the middle of this unsafe Baghdad. We were called there. They wouldn't tell us what for and we were taken into this sort of holding room and we go through this whole hullabaloo. Our phones get confiscated. Our radios get confiscated. We can't broadcast. We can't phone out. We can't tell our people what's going on. And then we get taken into this other room and we arrive in this other room and they we find Paul Bremer, the head of the occupation authority, Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, the interim Iraqi president Aza Allawi (ph).

We witnessed this very, very short ceremony, very bland, very short. There were some smiles. Then it was over. Of course, as a journalist you think, ah, this is great. Off we go. We've got the exclusive. Let's see who can get the get news out first. So of course we ran for our phone and our walkie talkies to see that they had been - disappeared and I remember running for my phone. I was body blocked by a huge former Navy seal now bodyguard to any number of these new officials and I mean, almost knocked to the floor.

And I went ballistic. I mean I just went nuts. I said, we need our phones. We're journalists. You brought us here to tell us the story. Such was the paranoia, such was the fear because of this incredibly insecure situation, that they just, they wanted to hold onto this news for several hours. Well, after a lot of to and fro and back and forth, we finally got our equipment back and we got the news out.

Certainly the Americans and the Iraqis were very pleased that they'd managed to pull this off without it being sabotaged by the insurgents. At every milestone that we've witnessed, the hope is being that this will somehow change the direction of the violence in Iraq, whether it was the capture of Saddam Hussein, whether it was the transfer of sovereignty in June of 2004, whether it was the preliminary hearing of Saddam Hussein in July of 2004.

I was lucky. I was one of three journalists who were able to get into the little makeshift courtroom for Saddam's initial court appearance and of course it was the first time he was being seen since he'd been captured the December before. And the last time people had seen him, he looked really like a cave man. So that when it came time to see him in his court appearance, one of the things we all wanted to know was what would he look like?

The first inkling I had that Saddam was arriving was the sound of the chains and I heard this sort of clanking of chains coming in and we all sat bolt upright in the court. He came in. We sort of gasped because he was very thin. He looked very dark. He had trimmed his hair obviously. The Iraqis who were in that courtroom were still scared at this moment, all these months after Saddam had lost power, they were still scared that somehow he was going to rise like a phoenix and I don't know, assume his presidential mantle again.

LARRY KING: But first, Saddam Hussein defiant in his first day in court today.

AMANPOUR: The anchors wanted to sort of move me into the train of talking about the defiant Saddam Hussein, how this former dictator came to court and he was still defiant and you know, when you describe him as defiant and combative, I think that this is a really interesting case of where the video clashes with reality.

So one of my biggest tasks in trying to recount the story of Saddam in court was to try to express and try to make our viewers realize that this was a man who was cowed, who was stripped bare of all his power. I know for sure that the Americans, the interim Iraqi government hoped that by putting Saddam on trial and by having him have this public first court appearance, that it would tamp down the insurgency, but it hasn't.

And I have heard from my sources who were in the legal community and who deal with Saddam Hussein, they tell me now that he's being less and less cooperative because he is also hearing about the insurgency. He knows it's going on and he's wondering perhaps maybe it'll work. Maybe it'll run the Americans out of town. Maybe one day he will have a chance to get back to power.


COOPER: Good evening from Baghdad. I'm Anderson Cooper. The U.S. military has just released very recently a video, surveillance video showing this evening's attack, rocket attack on the U.S. embassy compound. This video is from the Department of Defense. The grainy black and white video shows a rocket hitting the U.S. embassy complex. Two American personnel were killed in the attack, one civilian, one military. Five other U.S. personnel were wounded, none of them seriously.

There have been three other attacks against polling stations in the city of Baghdad in the last several hours. Five Iraqi security personnel have been injured in those attacks. This is a city tonight under lockdown. The bridges are shut down. There is extreme limitations on travel. There are virtually no cars on the road in Baghdad.

The polls open 7:00 a.m. Baghdad time and Iraqis coming out to vote. How many of them will come out to vote, that is the big question. All depending on the security situation. The insurgents having vowed to shut down these elections, to wipe the streets of Baghdad with the blood of anyone who dares to vote. Will Iraqis come out to vote? That is the question we will be watching. We will bring you live reports over the next several hours from Baghdad and all throughout Iraq. Right now, we go back to CNN PRESENTS, stories from Iraq.

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seventy five miles northwest of Baghdad lays the city of Samara, a rebel stronghold in the Sunni triangle. Samara was the target of a major U.S.-led offensive in September. It was a fierce and bloody battle, a battle ultimately won by U.S. forces, but at what cost? Here's CNN's Jane Arraf.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the importances of Samara is that it was one of the capitals of the Islamic empire. Now in modern day of course, it had become a place of violence, a place of dissent. This was one of the battles, a battle that was purported to be a model for the rest of the country.

There was really an active participation for the first time by Iraqi soldiers, by Iraqi special forces, by Iraqi police. We'd been pressing to go to Samara for a long time when we were told we'd be the only television people there, which was terrific. For 10 hours we were in the back of this vehicle, explosions around us with fighting around us. And finally when dawn came, they let us out of this vehicle and there's this amazing sight, hundreds and hundreds of soldiers, on foot, marching down the street.

ARWA DAMON, PRODUCER: Captain George Rodriguez was the commander of the soldiers there with Charlie company, the New York National Guard. His nickname was Prime Time. Apparently whenever the media came by, they all ended up focusing on him. He was one of those very charismatic people, very soft spoken, yet commanded the respect of his troops.

ARRAF: They aren't fighting for weapons of mass destruction. They aren't fighting to prevent terrorism necessarily. Their main role is to keep their buddies on either side of them safe so they can all go home alive. And that was a lot of motivation.

When the major part of that battle was over, they took over this hotel and one of the National Guardsman was setting up an anti-mortar position on the roof. He was killed by a sniper. In less than 24 hours, they retook that city. There were minimum civilian casualties. There were minimum Iraqi and American casualties and they deemed it a huge success.

One of the things that happened in Samara, that happens over and over in Iraq that is endlessly fascinating, compelling, astonishing, is that out of this devastation very quickly you get people coming out.

DAMON: And we walked into the storefront that were barber shops for the most part and there was broken glass everywhere that would just crunch under your feet as you were walking in. And in the middle of it all, a gentleman is sitting and he's getting his Friday haircut as though the world hadn't just exploded all around him.

ARRAF: And into these shops would go Captain Rodriquez with some of his men to try to negotiate how much they wanted for the damage that had been done. And then the bargaining started.

DAMON: Captain Rodriguez and his soldiers had spent pretty much probably a solid 12 hours in this area around the mosque, paying out compensation. I looked at him and I thought to myself, I was like, I really wish I could give you a hug and say, listen, everything's going to be OK. All these efforts you've put in are going to be worth it. This country's going to be fine. It's going to be a great story to tell somebody and I just - I really couldn't bring myself to do that, because I couldn't lie to him.

ARRAF: One of the absolutely fascinating things that we saw is a conversation between the commander, Colonel Dragon (ph), Randy Dragon, who was talking to the governor about how to reconstruct. And the governor was going through these streets and he was telling us initially, what an amazing reception he had in these streets, about how wonderful everyone thought it was, how well he was being treated. He would go through these streets and we went with the governor. And this was really amazing and heartening, because again, I come from the Saddam era, when people just did not complain.

For me to see people complaining in public to a figure of authority, is just an amazing thing. So they were saying to the governor, yeah, you're here now. Where have you been for the last six weeks? We're going to see you for another month and a half. It was all this, if you want to talk about democracy, maybe that was one of the seeds of democracy.

As we approached the Samara general hospital, which was the main hospital there, there was a sound that I will always think of as the soundtrack to the war that I've been covering in Baghdad and it's the sound of women sobbing and not just sobbing, tearing their clothes, tearing their hair, just this unending inconsolable grief.

And one of the things that will haunt me is the sight of a man carrying a child in his arms. We don't know how he died. It was one of those little bits of things that jump out at you, that hint at horrors that we can't even imagine.

DAMON: The Iraqis had their first press conference about Samara a few days after the main fighting and the minister of interior walked in with Colonel Dragon, who was commanding the U.S. forces down there and said to him, shook his hand and said, congratulations sir on a battle with no civilian casualties and I just remember being so shocked at hearing him say that, especially having seen what we had just seen in the hospital in Samara, having seen the bodies, having seen the sorrow, thinking to myself, how could you ever say that.

ARRAF: You mentioned there were no civilian casualties. Surely there were some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There might be. There might be, but at this - there is a minimum civilian casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Who is your one person standing to collect the body?

ARRAF: We asked the National Guard what they thought of this. Were these civilians? Was it a tragedy? Was it worth the battle? And one of them said, civilians, insurgents, who knows? You can't tell. This is war.

DAMON: The hardest question I've ever gotten from an Iraqi person I've spoken to has been why? Why did this happen to us?

The woman is crying, wants to know why and the two brothers who just lost their son are crying and they want to know why and everybody just wants to know why and there's just absolutely nothing that you can say to them, how do you ever answer that question? How can you ever justify a person's sorrow with their loss? There's just nothing to say.


BROWN: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS. They're working to rebuild Iraq, to secure a country ravaged by war. They're policemen and politicians, civil servants, professionals who risk their lives literally every day, men and women who have become prime targets of a vicious insurgency. This story from CNN's Brent Sadler.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was clear from reports we were getting from security forces that there was an increasing number, radically increasing number of professionals within Iraqi society being killed. Those who were working for the central government, for all sort of essential occupation authorities under the United States' leadership, these sort of professional classes were being eliminated one by one, sometimes more than one in one day alone.

This was the story we wanted to follow up, so we went to see a family in one of the districts of Baghdad to talk to relatives of a political analyst, a leading human rights activist, a man called Abdul Latif Almea (ph), who'd been gunned down after appearing on a local Arab satellite channel. So we're sitting in this room, camera is rolling and I'm talking about the loss of their loved one as a result of a hit by machine gun fire.

At that moment, I heard another burst of machine gun fire, very similar to what this man was describing in front of me and then we rushed outside. We jumped in our vehicle and drove on in the sound of where the gunshots came from. On the road we saw puddles of blood. People told us the victims had been taken from nearby hospital. We then followed a trail of blood to the hospital to track down what had happened.

And inside the hospital we found a Baghdad city official, Sala Adimedi (ph) literally bleeding to death before doctors could start the important job of trying to save his life. And on the grand scale of things, he was one of the most important people in the Baghdad city council. He was number two. He was an important administrative official and he was representative of many of those civil servants that are the lifeblood of the emerging new Iraqi authorities.

And it was the specific people, not gunmen, not security forces, that they wanted to eliminate. The insurgents aiming to take out professional class. So it was really designed to kill, to intimidate, to scare and to break the backbone of those Iraqis who were coming forward under tremendously difficult conditions, deadly conditions in many circumstances, risking their life and limb every day to go to work. This was the aim of the insurgents, to break that will.

You saw the mother, the brother, the sister and the wife of this very badly wounded official coming in straight from their jobs, from their homes and they were absolutely gut wrenched obviously by what they had seen, their loved ones literally are lying on the gurneys with their blood quite clearly on the floor.

Now the emergency room doctors came in and starting dealing with triage, started dealing with trying to staunch the flow of blood. And then I saw his bodyguard also very badly wounded, had been hit by multiple bullets as a result of an attack from AK-47 assault rifles. His driver died but the bodyguard survived and the official eventually survived. And I remember as I left the emergency room, his wife said to me, you know, I wish my husband would not go back to his job, but I don't think I'll be able to stop him. It's that important to him.


BROWN: Iraq is one of the most dangerous places in the world for a working journalist. More than a third of the record 129 media personnel killed last year died in Iraq and two of them were our own. Durea Isa Mohamed (ph), a translator and driver Yassar Katab (ph) were gunned down when a CNN convoy came under attack. Correspondent Michael Holmes was there.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'd been down at a town in the south called Hilla We'd been doing a story down there ironically on democracy classes for civilians, going and learning about democracy. (INAUDIBLE) the students were on our way back up to Baghdad. We had a two-car convoy because that's the way we do things. You got to have two cars in case one breaks down and that's a safety issue. It's just a lottery who was in which car.

SCOTT McWHINNIE, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: He didn't have any clue at all about something that's going to happen. I just had my head in the window. We were just chatting and then we all jumped back in our cars and took off and headed for home ready to cut the story. But literally in 30 seconds, a minute later all hell broke loss.

HOLMES: The first thing I remember was the sound of the crack of a rifle.

McWHINNIE: I remembered, all the windows just shattering and you just heard ....

HOLMES: Then a bullet, pretty much went right between Scott and my head and I remember looking forward and seeing it go out the front windshield. Scotty and I both turned around. It just was instinct to turn around and see where the gunfire was coming from. I saw a sedan behind us and a man standing out of the sunroof, 2/3 of his body out of the sunroof. He had an AK-47. You could see his face. You could see the weapon. He was no more than 30 or 40 feet from us. He was just firing pretty much from that position, just bang, bang, bang.

In that split second, as I was looking back and saw him, I got a glimpse of (INAUDIBLE) car going off and into a center medium (ph) and I remember seeing blood on the windshield.

McWHINNIE: I saw Yassar and Durea's car, I saw them speeding across the road and then flip into the ditch.

HOLMES: I looked back and then went across the seat. I grabbed the flak jacket and pulled it in behind me and I looked up and Scotty was still looking out the back.

McWHINNIE: And then I see this other car with a guy standing out the sunroof, a back (INAUDIBLE) an AK just like wiggling there with bullets. I remember Holmes he said to me like get down.

HOLMES: And I reached up and grabbed the front of his flak jacket and pulled him down across in front of me. I think he was hit on the way down.

McWHINNIE: Mitch, our security guy, saw that he was looking and he was - he said so no, no and I remember going, taking two deep breaths and then just leaning right out the window and turning round to the gunman who just firing off rounds and it's the gunman.

HOLMES: Scotty, I still had my hand on him and I had my hand on his head and he said, Holmesy man, I think I've been hit and I took my hand off and there was just blood everywhere.

McWHINNIE: And I remember lying on Holmesy's sort of lap like this and we all hunkered (ph) down just thinking, I don't want to go. God, so I don't want to die.

HOLMES: Scotty and I had covered Afghanistan, Gaza, west bank, Iraq before. We'd worked closely together in some pretty nasty situations and to have a friend like that basically bleeding on your lap and expressing doubts that he was going to make it is - it's a pretty traumatic thing.

McWHINNIE: And all the gunfire stopped and then I remember opening my eyes and sort of sitting up and I couldn't see nothing and I thought, I'm dead.

HOLMES: He had been shot, just skipped across the top of his scalp and of course that bleeds like crazy. It wasn't life threatening we found out later but it's pretty terrifying.

ODAI SADIK, CNN PRODUCER: I'd just came back from my day off and it was a great day to start with. I was out on assignment and came back and I was told that Durea is missing. We don't know where Durea is and Yassar (INAUDIBLE)

McWHINNIE: At the time in hospital, it's like, whereas Yasser and Durea they back (ph)

HOLMES: This whole time, well, we're looking after Scott and the chaos that follows an incident like that. I'm on the two-way the whole time calling for Yasser and Durea and I remember once getting some sort of static on it and I thought is there a response? It was like a little bit of hope there for half a second, but we never heard back from them.

SADIK: I get into the car to go out to the hospital and I go over there and I see Humvees pulling over to the - pulling out to the hospital itself. I get out of the car and I walked in, I'm CNN, they say, they check my IDs and then they tell me that they have just found Durea and Yassar and they're both dead. I couldn't believe what they told him so I asked to - I wanted to see them. They wouldn't let me see them. Then they showed me digital pictures of them and that's when I knew it was them.

INGRID FORMANEK, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: I was heartbroken and I think, a lot of my colleagues (INAUDIBLE) we knew both of them quite well, very special, Durea. I got very attached to Durea because I'd hired him (INAUDIBLE) When he walked into the office I was amazed. Here was not a usual Iraqi. He was not afraid to speak. He was full of energy. He had ideas. He wasn't easily cowered, because that's something we saw in Saddam's Iraq.

I saw Durea as maybe a chance for Iraq (INAUDIBLE) Iraq, because he'd taken this opportunity (INAUDIBLE) himself into it. Baghdad was (INAUDIBLE) Iraq and to me it's become to symbolize a lot of its conflict.

HOLMES: Over the years, like a lot of people in our business, covered awful things like Rwanda and the Middle East extensively and I've seen a lot of bad things that it's personal when you see the guy doing the shooting. You've got one of your mates bleeding in your lap and you lost two people that you felt very close to. Durea in particular had been made translator on previous trips to Iraq. He and I had a lot in common in a way. I mean we would social after work. His kids are the same age as mine. They're young. He was just a terrific guy with a great love of life.

SADIK: It's loss of hope. People like him don't come very often. He worked (ph) just a few days before he died and this is the first time I actually read it. And the killing still goes on, women, children, fine young men trying to earn their decent living are getting killed every day. How long did this go on? When will I be next?


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