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Journalists recover from hotel shelling

Name: Paul Pasquale

Age: 36

Hometown: London

Job: Reuters cameraman


Name: Samia Nakhoul

Age: 42

Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon

Job: Reuters bureau chief


CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq—Paul Pasquale lies on a gurney in a Navy surgical hospital, covered with wounds and bandages, looking like a shark-attack survivor.

Pasquale, 36, of London is a cameraman for the Reuters news agency. He was on the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad when it was hit by a shell fired from a U.S. tank.

He has wounds on his cheeks, nose, hands, arms, down his side, across his chest, over his hip and down to his feet.

He lifts up the sheets to show the wounds on his legs. Some look like little punctures, while others snake across his side in a bizarre pattern, as if a child had scribbled over his body with a marker.

"But I've still got my testicles," he says and laughs.

Samia Nakhoul, 42, a writer for Reuters, was injured along with Pasquale. Two other journalists were killed in the attack.

Thirteen journalists have died during the Iraq war, some in accidents, some from bombs and bullets. No incident drew more attention than the Palestine Hotel shelling.

Nakhoul and Pasquale do not assign blame or express regret.

"I've been doing it for 13 years," Nakhoul says. "I like to chase the story. I don't regret it. This is part of the deal."

Wars are kind of a specialty, Pasquale says. "I haven't missed a war in 15 years—Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan—you name it, really," he says.

But Iraq, he says, is different.

"I changed my job on this one," he says. "Most of my job is as a cameraman, so you have to be at the front to get the film. This is the first war where I've waited for the war to come to me. It was extraordinary. It was like waiting for a tidal wave at a beach, holding on."

Before the shelling, Nakhoul was on the hotel balcony, watching the fighting. "I had the phone; I was filing to our main desk, telling them what I was seeing," she says.

The writer, who covered the 1991 Persian Gulf War, has been in Baghdad about six weeks. Her eyelids are streaked red and purple, set against a pale yellow background.

She is peppered with cuts on her cheek, forehead, nose and chin.

A piece of shrapnel sliced into her forehead and settled in her head.

"I had brain surgery four days ago to clean it up," she says.

She doesn't know the extent of the damage. They'll have to do tests, she says.

She opens her mouth and a nurse takes her temperature, as another inserts an IV stem.

"Don't bend your arm," he says.

She squeezes her eyes in pain.

At the same time, doctors work on Pasquale.

He tried to carry a friend out of the rubble, but his hands were injured.

"I just crawled out," he says. "I wasn't feeling too great, put it that way. I didn't feel I was dead, but I felt like I was on the way out."

He has been in Baghdad for six months. He had the option to leave, but he wanted to stay.

"I was running part of the operation, and I employed a lot of Iraqis; a lot of fixers, a lot of people like that. For me to leave the work to the Iraqis, I just couldn't do that," he says.

He is asked whether he will cover the next war.

"I don't know," he says. "Ask me in a year."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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