Simpson: 'This Is Like A Scene From Hell. There Are Bodies All Around'
Monday 7 April 2003
The BBC journalist John Simpson witnessed a "friendly fire" attack in northern Iraq yesterday, in which his translator and up to 17 Kurds and US troops were killed. This is how he described the scene:
"Well, it's a bit of a disaster ... I was in a convoy of eight or 10 cars in northern Iraq coming up to a place that has recently been captured. American special forces in a truck two trucks, I think beside them, plus a very senior figure [the brother of Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party."
Simpson to US soldier: "Shut up. I'm broadcasting. Oh yes, I'm fine. Am I bleeding?" US soldier: "Yes, you've got a cut."
Simpson: "I thought you were going to stop me. I think I've just got a bit of shrapnel in the leg, that's all. That was one of the American special forces medics. I thought he was going to try to stop me reporting. I've counted 10 or 12 bodies around us. It was an American plane that dropped the bomb right beside us. I saw it land about 10ft, 12ft away I think.
"This is a scene from hell here. All the vehicles on fire. There are bodies burning around me, there are bodies lying around, there are bits of bodies. This is a really bad own goal by the Americans.
"We don't really know how many Americans are dead. There is ammunition exploding in fact from some of these cars. A very senior member of the Kurdish Republic's government who also may have been injured.
"I am sorry to be so excitable. I am bleeding through the ear. I saw this American convoy, and they bombed it. They hit their own people they may have hit this Kurdish figure very senior, and they've killed a lot of ordinary characters ... The officer in charge of the special forces saw an Iraqi tank in the plain about a mile away from us, and it was, I think, firing in our direction, and he called in an air strike.
"I saw two F-15 planes circling low overhead and I had a bad feeling, because they seemed to be closer to us than they were to the tank. As I was looking at them this must sound extraordinary but I assure you it is true, I saw the bomb coming out of one of the planes and I saw it as it came down beside me. It was painted white and red.
"It took the lower legs off Kamaran our translator. I got shrapnel. I would have got a chunk of shrapnel in my spine had I not been wearing a flak jacket, and it was buried deep in the Kevlar.
"Our producer had a piece of shrapnel an inch long taken out of his foot. But apart from that and ruptured eardrums which is painful but not serious, and a few punctures from shrapnel, the rest of us were all right. But our translator was killed and he was a fine man.
"The planes circled round. I shouted out at the American special forces, 'Tell them to go away. Tell them it's us. Don't let them drop another bomb.'
"It was a mistake. They were so apologetic afterwards, as you can imagine. The medics did what they could for us. And they kept saying, 'I am really sorry about this' as though it was their fault. But these things happen if you are fighting a war. Mistakes happen."
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