By Richard Edwards in Basra
I HEARD the screams first, then saw the mob of men and children wielding sticks and throwing rocks.
They shouted as they ran down a busy road in the east of Basra towards a group of men lingering by a pile of dusty rubble.
They had seen their targets and pointed.
‘Fedayeen!’ they screamed. ‘Death to the Fedayeen!’ Two Fedayeen suspects suddenly broke loose and started running towards us. One had a trickle of blood running down his forehead and nose, and a look of terror on his face.
Rocks rained around us, crashing against our car and flying over my head as I ducked behind the bumper. Then the chase began, a crowd of 50 men on their tail. As Western Daily Press photographer Jon Mills came within yards one of the suspects, the man pulled out a pistol.
Jon said: ‘I could see immediately, from the look in his eyes, he was not going to use it.
He thought he was going to die. He was seriously scared – pleading for his life.’ The sight of the pistol roused the crowd to fever pitch.
The man hid his gun, flicked his head back at his pursuers then ran towards a car. He had found a saviour. With the last steps he could summon, he fell into the vehicle. It sped away.
The other man was now alone. He stopped, turned to face his enemy – and was immediately beaten to the ground. Within seconds, Looking back in terror: The armed suspect who got away the men had surrounded him, a crazed look of revenge in their eyes, thrashing at him with sticks, metal pipes and their boots.
Some took their shoes off to slap him and a large wound opened up in the back of his head, matting his hair and turning his shirt scarlet.
Then the people fetched a cart and the blows quietened as they dumped him in the back of it. They wanted to parade him to the city – a symbol of Saddam’s evil regime.
He looked up, his eyes glazed as the blur of another stick beat his body. He did not groan – he simply sat, suffering in desperate silence.
Meanwhile, the crowd argued over what to do with him – but soon, the decision was taken away from them. Around the corner roared a convoy of tanks and soldiers from the 7th Armoured Brigade. They quickly cleared the crowds, took the man from the cart and bundled him into the back of an armoured vehicle.
As he looked on from the back of the vehicle, his face was etched with shock and bewilderment.
His life had been saved by the British.
© Daily Mail