WHEN I heard the story
Saddam may have been bombed I knew it had to be wrong
intelligence. It had to be rubbish.
Clearly if he was hurt,
or had been buried, there would have been security all over the
place and no one would have got near it.
When I arrived at the
scene I found no security at all.
Three miles away at the
Palestine Hotel we heard the bombs.
The people from the
Iraqi Information Ministry told us what had happened. I was
It's a pleasant,
up-market district. Mainly small homes.
We told the Information
Ministry we wanted to go. There was no attempt on their part to
stop us. If there was a senior official killed we would not be
We are never allowed
near any security area. We're not allowed into the military
camps, the intelligence bases, the palaces.
I'm not saying there
was no intelligence tip but it was clearly incorrect. That's the
nature of the intelligence game.
And if they were
targeting the al-Sa'ah restaurant, as has been suggested, they
I know the place. There
is a fast food restaurant downstairs that sells excellent
chicken. Upstairs you can get kebabs. It's very popular with the
When we arrived the
restaurant windows had been blown in. The manager told me it had
been filled with people but amazingly only a couple were
slightly hurt. Behind it there is now just a huge crater and
mounds of rubble.
One body was pulled out
dead after a couple of hours. Others were still buried when I
got there, including the wife and two children of Abdil Hassad.
Abdil is a Christian
who owns a shop. He is a handsome, well-dressed young man in his
He escaped the blast
but wife Sena, 36, and daughters Rana, 10, and seven-year-old
Maria were not so lucky. I found him sobbing uncontrollably by
the pile of rubble.
"My wife and
children are there," he cried as he crouched over the pile
of masonry. As he spoke a frantic search to find people alive
was going on. Neighbours threw bricks out with their hands.
There were 100 or so
people from the community gathered there. All were very, very
They all knew US troops
had occupied palaces earlier in the day.
The people felt they
were bombed maliciously.
recognised me from my days with CNN.
He lives in a house
across the alleyway. Yarub was thrown to the ground by the
explosion but he and his family were unhurt.
Outraged he prodded my
chest saying: "You won't even cover this. The Americans
don't want to hear this. I defy you to cover it.
"Is this freedom
that you bring us? All you come here for is to kill innocent
people. You bring us death." On the one hand it's war. The
US is doing very well, moving through the city systematically
taking down the Iraqi defences.
On the other hand you
have the collateral damage. They go after Saddam and hit several
And then, later, the
news people get hit. I was sitting four floors below the bombed
They were a very
popular team. I knew the cameraman who was killed, and Paul the
engineer. He was one of several people injured.
I was at the hospital
when he was getting his leg amputated.
It was a shock for us
the hotel was targeted. Everyone knows the Palestine Hotel. It's
the most obvious landmark on the riverside.
Everyone knows it's the
media hotel. A couple of hundred of us have been here for weeks.
To shoot at it,
allegedly because there was sniper fire coming from it, is a
pretty casual way to conduct a war. There are no snipers in this
building. The only shooting going on here is from the
It is intimidating to
say the least. I'd like to think it wasn't deliberate, that it
was a decision made in the heat of battle.
Al Jazeera was also hit
and a journalist was killed. I will concede it was in a battle
But it's a building
that is very clearly the Al Jazeera headquarters. Although it
had also happened in Kabul during the Afghan war, it was a big
surprise to me that that was destroyed.
Al Jazeera puts out
material discomforting to the United States about civilian
I haven't heard any
journalists saying they're getting out of town.
It's dangerous but
everyone I know is determined to stay.