Saturday, March 29, 2003

An audioblog and, for those unable to download it, a transcript:

It’s about quarter past one in the afternoon and if I sound a bit shaken up it’s because I am.

We drove about 15 to 20km with an escort of journalists inside what was until a few days ago Iraqi territory. We crossed the ridge at Chamchamal where a few days ago Iraqi troops peeled back towards Kirkuk. Just as we stopped to take some pictures we heard a whistle and a zooming sound and a large artillery shell came down about 50 yards from us, forcing us to dive for cover. It was extremely close and extremely loud.

As soon it was clear it was just the one shell coming in we all jumped into the vehicles and drove back the way we came.

We’ve come back about 3km from where the shell went off and it seems quieter here.

As we were driving down through former Iraqi territory we saw a number of deserted villages – ghost towns really. One of them’s just in front of me; the walls are painted with anti-American slogans in Arabic. There’s a few murals of Saddam Hussein like the ones seen on TV, holding a gun aloft in a triumphant pose. It’s rather eerie to see these villages completely deserted.

One journalist told me that the Iraqi troops who peeled back from their frontline positions left the place in a spotless condition. They even swept out their barracks before they left and moved back towards Kirkuk….

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