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CNN PRESENTS

Under Fire: Stories from the New Iraq

Aired January 29, 2006 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Bullets and ballots. Elections and insurgents.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Many police stations now are just shells. Many of them have walls blown out. The vehicles have been set on fire.

ANNOUNCER: Throughout the new Iraq, hope is often overshadowed by inconsolable grief.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the things that will haunt me is the sight of a man carrying a child in his arms.

ANNOUNCER: Death, uncertainty, the daily facts of life in the danger zone.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: He was just firing pretty much from that position, just bang, bang, bang.

Windows started exploding in the vehicle.

ANNOUNCER: These are the stories of the new Iraq. First hand accounts from the reporters who have witnessed this war torn nation struggle to overcome to rebuild to survive.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At every milestone that we've witnessed, the hope is being that this will somehow change the direction of the violence in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two males, two kids.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: The stakes were eradicating (ph) an inundation 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 Fallujah. But it appeared when that offensive began, that trouble began to start in Mosul.

The vast majority of the cities, about 4,000 police force, had deserted their posts. Many police stations now are just shells, many of them have walls blown out, their vehicles were set on fire. Mosul was a place that the Ba'ath party drew quite a lot of its senior members from. They did very well in under Saddam Hussein and they live in some of the more prosperous parts of Mosul. These are the places that the troops are going into to target.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me where the hidden stuff is.

ROBERTSON: You have thee sort of richer former ba'ath party members who they believe are sort of behind the inspiration and funding for the insurgency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snipers go ahead and maneuver over.

ROBERTSON: The first thing I witnessed was what is known as a rock drill. And this is where there's an operation planned and the streets are mark the out on the ground with white tape. And little wooden replica houses are put out there with target house clearly marked. And the soldiers walk through it.

CAPT. ROBERT LACKEY (ph), U.S. ARMY: We go over all of the types of risks that we might see out on the objective.

ROBERTSON: Captain Robert Lackey (ph) was the commander of the unit I was embedded with.

LACKEY: On top of building 20...

ROBERTSON: Task Force Olympia, which is a striker brigade.

LACKEY: OK, are we clear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

LACKEY: Go ahead and start moving out.

ROBERTSON: It was very impressive to watch him go through the briefings, checking,, checking, that all the men under his command understood what they had to do. Not just out of professionalism, getting the job done, but out of the personal concern to make sure that everyone comes back alive from every operation and that everybody is safe. The idea of the walk through 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, you know, it was clear that this was going to be an uncomfortable operation for the troops.

LACKEY: You need to tell your guys to suck it up and (bleep) do your job. They're going to be cold, they're going to be wet, but they're coming back to a warm beds.

ROBERTSON: They're only, at that stage, only two months into a 12 month tour, 10 months to go. You know, just before Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we need to get their names. Get their names written down when you send them up. ROBERTSON: 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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I am nobody.

ROBERTSON: They had the wrong house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody from my family.

ROBERTSON: 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 MALE: Do you know where the house is or do one of these gentlemen know?

ROBERTSON: Was that 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 FEMALE: I have to put you in this position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fourth door you can shut...

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fourth door, which way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This house right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the name being hit over there and him pointing now this, that gives us enough information to action on this house as well.

ROBERTSON: And of course, when we got to that house, the men of the family weren't there. The women in the house said they were out at a farmhouse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Farmers.

ROBERTSON: The family was saying, look, these men are farmers. They didn't buy that story at all. When the soldiers went out, and we have to travel with them, we have to get out with them quick, they're the security and in the area, so when they go we have to go.

ROBERTSON: Can I ask you a question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ROBERTSON: When they come in your house...

OK, 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All children. They're shaking, they're scared. What can I say? It is a horror of ours. It is a horror of ours.

ROBERTSON: When the soldiers come, they think that they're trying to make Mosul safer.

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

ROBERTSON: As I talk 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 they were telling me what they wanted me to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great job. Great job, Sardine (ph).

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

ANNOUNCER: When CNN PRESENTS returns:

BRENT SADLER, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are times in some conflicts where particular human tragedies really get to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wounded 4-year-old boy whose story grabbed the world's attention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SADLER: There are times in some conflicts where particular human tragedies really get to you. And there was one of those occasions surrounding a tears to triumph story of a young 4-year-old Iraqi boy called Baca Ali Hussein. He was out playing one day when he was caught in the cross fire when U.S. troops responded to an attack, and he was hit by a bullet. The bullet wedged in the base of his skull in his head. And he carried that bullet fragment for seven months and that was having a devastating effect on young Baca 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 Baca 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 Baca Ali was flown out of Iraq and taken for several weeks to Athens to have this operation done.

Now I picked up the story on a bright sunny day at Baghdad International Airport, waiting for Baca 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 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 could see 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 unforgettable moments because, obviously, I wanted to try and talk to Baca Ali himself to see how his speech was. Was it impaired 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-old's eye level and started trying to talk to him.

Now, instead of trying to engage in conversation, Baca Ali just threw his arms around me. He started to kiss me. He was saying -- speaking Arabic saying thank you, thank you, thank you. Not once but several times he came backwards and forwards and 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 having a life doomed by invalidity, coming back with renewed hope.

How's the head? Oh. What a cute little boy. Look at this boy. How's your head? How is the head?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. OK.

SADLER: When he finished hugging and kissing me and 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. He was running around, a happy little boy, 4-year-old boy as you 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, maybe 50, 60 people. It was chaos when Baca Ali came out of the vehicle. There was chaos. And suites cascaded, toffees, candies cascades on this little boy's head. We don't get many really good happy stories with good endings in war -- in the tragedy of war. This was one of them.

ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN PRESENTS: Saddam Hussein's day in court.

AMANPOUR: The first inkling I had that Saddam was arriving was the sound of the chains.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS. the great hope that was the Iraqi elections and the trial of Saddam Hussein would is a quieting effect on the violence in Iraq. Well, that was not the case this weekend. Violence continued across the country, a roadside bomb killed several Iraqi soldiers. Churches were also the targets of attacks. And in the Saddam Hussein courtroom, the star defendant staged a walkout at his own criminal trial. No one said rebuilding Iraq would be easy, of course. The attempts to build a democracy and to prosecute the former dictator illustrate just how difficult the job has become. Here is CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: 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 7:00 a.m. and I received word that we were called to 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 there we find Paul Bremer, head of the Occupational Authority, Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, the interim Iraqi president, Aza Allawi (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll read the letter.

AMANPOUR: We witness this very, very short ceremony, very bland, very short, there were some smiles. When it was over, well of course, as a journalist, you think, wow, this is great, off we go. We've got the exclusive, let's see who can get the news out first. So, of course we ran for our phones 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 of these new officials, and I mean, almost knocked to the floor and I went ballistic. I mean, I just went nuts. I said but we need our phones, we're journalists you brought us here to tell the story. Such was the paranoia, such was the fear because of this incredibly insecure situation that they just -- they wanted to hold on to this news for several hours. Well, after a lot of, you know, to and fro and back and forth we finally got our equipment back and we got the news out.

This is once again sovereign Iraqi territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for your help.

AMANPOUR: Certainly the Americans and the Iraqis were very pleased that they'd managed to pull this off without it being sabotaged by the insurgents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The future of Iraq belongs to you, the Iraqi people.

AMANPOUR: At every milestone that we've witnessed, the hope is been 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 first time he was being seen since he had been captured the December before. And the last time people had seen him, he looked really like a caveman. 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 were in the 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, CNN ANCHOR: 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 defiance 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 this is a really interesting case of where the video clashes with reality.

So, one of my wig 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, stripped bare of all his power. I know for sure that the Americans, the interim Iraqi government hoped 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 is going on and he's wondering, perhaps, maybe it'll work. Maybe it will run the Americans out of town. Maybe one day he will have a chance to get back to power.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up on CNN PRESENTS: Behind the scenes at the battle of Samarra. ARRAF: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a sound of women sobbing and not just sobbing, tearing their clothes, tearing their hair, just this unending inconsolable grief.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARRAF: One of the importance's of Samarra 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 reported 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 had been pressing to go Samarra for the long time. 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 with explosions around us, with fighting around us, and finally when dawn came, they let us out of this vehicle and there was this amazing sight, hundreds and hundreds of soldiers on foot, marching down the street.

CAPT. GEORGE RODRIGUEZ, CHARLIE COMPANY, NEW YORK NATIONAL GUARD: Get all of three six, tell him to mark the location, to be at 17th now (ph), put it at his location.

ARWA DAMON, CNN PRODUCER: Captain George Rodriguez was the commander of the soldiers we were with, Charlie Company of the New York National Guard. His nickname was "Primetime." 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.

RODRIGUEZ: Give me a distance on that alleyway, how far off, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the fire from.

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.

RODRIGUEZ: Five, four (UNINTELLIGIBLE), keep an eye on those balconies.

ARRAF: And that was a lot of the motivation. When the major part of that battle was over they took over this hotel. And this -- one of the National Guardsmen 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 Samarra 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 storefronts 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 then 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 we would go Captain Rodriguez 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 spent pretty much a solid 12 hours in this area around the mosque paying out compensation. I looked at him and thought to myself, I was like, I really wish I could give you a hug and say, listen, everything's going to be OK, and you know, all these efforts you've put in are going to be worth it. This country is going to be fine, this is going to be a great story to tell somebody someday. And I just, I really couldn't bring myself to do it because I just -- I couldn't lie to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the fascinating things that we saw is a conversation between the commander, Colonel Dragon, Randy Dragon who was talking to the governor about how to reconstruct.

COL. RANDY DRAGON, U.S. ARMY: When do we get the kid backs to school.

ARRAF: And the governor was going through the 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 -- the Saddam era when people just did not complain. And 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 not going to see you for another month and a half." It was almost -- if you want to talk about democracy, maybe that was one of the seeds of democracy.

As we approach, this Samarra General Hospital, which was the main hospital there was a sound that, I will always think of as the soundtrack to the war I've been covering in Baghdad. 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 Samarra 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello Colonel, how are you? DAMON: 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 Samarra, having seen the bodies, having seen the sorrow, thinking to myself, you know, how could you ever say that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned there were no civilian casualties. Surely there were some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There might be. There might be. But it is -- if there is, it is a minimum civilian casualties.

DRAGON: Who is your one person staying to collect the body?

ARRAF: We asked the National Guard what they thought of this. Was it civilians, was it a tragedy, was it worth the battle? 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 who was 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 is 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 or their loss? There's just nothing to say.

ANNOUNCER: When CNN PRESENTS returns:

SADLER: And inside that hospital, we found a Baghdad city official literally bleeding to death.

ANNOUNCER: Insurgents try to wipe out Iraq's professionals. Brent Sadler follows the trail of blood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SADLER: 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 also the central occupational 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 and leading human rights activist, a man called Abdel latif Al Mayor (ph) who had 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 the result of a hit by machine gunfire. And at that moment, I heard another burst of machine gunfire, very similar to what this man was describing in front of me, and then we rushed outside. We jumped in our vehicle and drove off 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 to a 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 Adine Meddi (ph), literally bleeding to death before doctors could start the important job of trying to save his life. Now, in the grand scale of things, he was none (ph) of the most important people in the Baghdad city council. He was No. 2, 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 these specific people, not gunmen (ph), not security forces that they wanted to eliminate, the insurgents aiming to take out the 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 everyday 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 were seeing of their loved one literally lying on gurnies with their blood, quite clearly, on the floor. And the emergency room doctors came in and started dealing with triage, started dealing with trying to staunch the flow of blood. And then I saw his bodyguard also very badly wounded, they'd 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 go back to his job, but I don't think I'll be able to stop him. It is that important to him."

ANNOUNCER: When CNN PRESENTS returns:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was just firing pretty much from that position.

ANNOUNCER: Michael Holmes and the nightmare of every journalist who has ever reported from a war zone.

HOLMES: It's personal when you see the guy doing the shooting. You've got one of your mates bleeding in your lap and you were lost two people that you felt very close to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS. This weekend Iraq proved, yet again, to be a dangerous place for journalists. ABC News anchorman, Bob Woodruff and his photographer, Doug Vogt, were seriously wounded by a roadside bomb Sunday. They were riding inside an Iraqi military vehicle. They are both said to be in stable condition. Last year more than 125 journalists and media personnel died in Iraq, a year ago this week in fact, two of CNN's own were killed when their convoy came under attack. CNN's Michael Holmes was with them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We'd been down at a town in the south called Hilla (ph). We'd been doing a story down there, ironically, on democracy classes for civilians going and learning about democracy.

We were on our way back up to Baghdad. We had a two-car convoy because that's the way we do things. You gotta have two cars in case one breaks down, that's a safety issue. It was just a lottery who was in which car.

SCOTT MCWHINNIE, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: Didn't have any clue at all about something was going to happen like that. I mean, I just had my head in the window, we were just chatting and then we were all jumped back in our cars and took off and headed for home, ready to cut the story. But literally, I don't know, 30 seconds a minute later all hell broke loose.

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

MCWHINNIE: And I remember all the windows just shattering and you just heard boom, boom, boom.

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. Scottie and I both turned around. Just instinct to turn around and see where the gunfire was coming from and I saw a sedan behind us and a man standing out of the sunroof, two thirds of his body out of the sunroof and had an AK-47, could see his face, 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 the Yasser and Duraid's car going off and into a center median. And I remember seeing blood on the windshield.

MCWHINNIE: I saw Yasser and Duraid's car. I saw them spinning across the road and then flip into the ditch.

HOLMES: When I had looked back and went down across the seat, he grabbed the flak jacket and pulled it in behind me and looked up and Scottie was still looking out the back.

MCWHINNIE: And then I see this other car with the guy standing out the sunroof with a black banner (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on and an AK just like riddling us 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, and I think he was hit on the way down.

MCWHINNIE: And, Mitch our security guy, sort of, he was looking and he was like -- he said, sort of, no, no. And I remember him going -- taking two deep breaths and then just leaning right out the window and turning around to the gunmen and just firing off rounds to the gunmen.

HOLMES: Scottie, I had my -- I still had my hand on him -- 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 it was just blood everywhere.

MCWHINNIE: And I remember lying on Holmesy's lap like this and a little hovered down, just thinking, you know, I don't want to go. You know, I don't want to die.

HOLMES: Scottie and I covered Afghanistan, Gaza, West Bank, Iraq before. We 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 -- is, it's a pretty traumatic thing.

MCWHINNIE: And all the gunfire stopped. And then I remember like -- opening my eyes and sort of sitting up and I couldn't see nothing, and I thought, wow, I mean, 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 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 Duraid is missing. They don't know where Duraid is. Him and Yasser went missing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on their way back.

MCWHINNIE: At the time in the hospital, it's like, you know, where is Yasser and Duraid, are they back?

HOLMES: This whole time, while we're looking after Scott and the chaos that follow an incident like that, among the two-way the whole way calling for Yasser and Duraid. And I remember once getting some sort of static on it and thought is that them? You know, is that 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 there and I see humvees pulling over to the -- pulling up to the hospital itself, bet out of the car and I walk to them and say I'm CNN. They say, you know, they check my I.D.s and they tell me that Duraid and Yasser -- they have just found Duraid and Yasser and they're both dead. I couldn't believe what they told me so I asked for -- I wanted to see them. They wouldn't let me see them and then they showed me digital pictures of them and that's when I knew it was them.

INGRID FORMANEK, CNN SR. PRODUCER: I was heartbroken and I think a lot of my colleagues felt the pain very deeply because we knew both of them quite well. Very especially Duraid. I felt touched by Duraid because I had hired him in Saddam's time.

And when he walked into the office, I was amazed. He was not you're usual Iraqi. He wasn't afraid to speak. He was full of energy, he had ideas, he wasn't easily cowered. This is not something we saw in Saddam's Iraq. I saw Duraid as maybe a chance for Iraq. For maybe the new Iraq, because he had taken this opportunity, change with a lost energy and threw himself into it. That death was a little bit of death of Iraq and to me it has come to symbolize this conflict.

HOLMES: Over the years, like a lost people in our business covered awful things like Rwanda and the Middle East extensively, and I've seen a lot of bad things, but it is 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. Duraid in particular had been my translator on previous trips to Iraq. He and I had a lot in common, in a way. I mean, we would socialize 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 wrote this 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 everyday. How long will this go on? When will I be next?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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