BBC World's 'Panorama' recalls 'friendly fire' Iraq tragedy

MUMBAI: In April two and a half weeks into this year's military campaign against Saddam Hussein, the BBC's World Affairs editor, John Simpson, was accompanying a convoy of US special forces and Kurdish fighters in the north of Iraq.

The convoy was mistakenly targeted by an American warplane. The subsequent missile strike killed 17 people, including a Kurdish translator working for the BBC and injured 45 others.



In a two-part Panorama, showing on BBC World on 27 and 28 December, Simpson relives the so-called 'friendly fire' tragedy, the events preceding it and the consequences of the attack. The veteran war correspondent suffered injuries to his ear and leg, and later discovered a piece of shrapnel embedded in his flak jacket that would almost certainly have killed him if it had not been for his layer of protection.

The documentary includes footage of the moments immediately before and after the missile strike, filmed by the cameraman Fred Scott. Last month, Scott received the prestigious Rory Peck Award for Hard News for what the judges described as 'an exquisite example of professionalism' in covering the story.

Reporting from the frontline Simpson says, "This is just 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 on the ground. This is a really bad own goal by the Americans. I saw this American convoy, and they bombed it. They hit their own people. They have killed a lot of ordinary characters, and I am looking at the bodies now and it is not a very pretty sight."

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