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Terrible nightmares that meant reporter Bowen had to get help.

Byline: By SALLY WILLIAMS Western Mail

Broadcaster Jeremy Bowen has revealed he needed therapy for post-traumatic distress after witnessing a friend being killed while on location. He was haunted by nightmares and flashbacks after he had watched helplessly as his friend and local fixer, Abed Takkoush, was killed right before his eyes, when his car was blown up by an Israeli tank shell in Lebanon in 2000, on the last day of Israeli occupation.

Cardiff-born Jeremy said, 'I was angry about the death of my friend, Abed, who was minding his own business, was in his early 50s and had three children.

'I was just a few yards from Abed's car when it was hit, so it's all captured on film.

'I watched his burning body lunge out of the window. A few minutes earlier, I'd been in the car with him.'

Jeremy's nightmares started soon after.

He said, 'I was having terrible flashbacks. I was suffering from hypervigilance - always thinking terrible things were going to happen.

'I needed professional help, so I went to see a therapist when I got back.

'He told me these were all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.'

Over consecutive days, he also lost two other conflict veteran friends in two continents, one in Bosnia another in Sierra Leone.

It was at this low point that he realised that the risks of being a war journalist have never been greater.

Jeremy has stared death in the face many times in troublespots all over the world and he admits that he feels lucky to be alive in a career that can be deadly.

He said, 'A lot of my friends have been killed and I am fortunate that I am the exception that proves the rule.'

Jeremy says even wearing a bullet-proof vest is only a small comfort when a war correspondent comes face to face with tank shells.

During the Kosovo crisis of 1999, he reported exclusively from the region and was robbed by bandits at gunpoint while reporting from the Albanian border.

He recalls, 'Albania is beautiful but deadly. People there carried guns and drove around in stolen cars.

'We were ambushed by robbers who stole our equipment with shots fired over our car and their guns pointing into it.

'They could have killed us and forgotten about us by lunchtime. I thought we were all going to die.

'I've faced death quite a few times. You can't cover wars as wholeheartedly as I do without being in near-death situations. It's frightening but it happens and these things are hard to forget.'

He explained that most war reporters get through perilous situations by believing that they are indestructible.

He said, 'I have seen my friends die but I keep thinking 'it's not going to happen to me'. You suspend your belief in dangerous situations, otherwise you wouldn't do the job.

'The important thing is that I enjoy what I do, my job is very stimulating, demanding and fun.

'I almost close my eyes to the risk but unfortunately the more you do the job, the greater the chance of getting hurt.'

He explains that although he has strong views on some of the war situations he covers, as a true professional he strives to remain completely impartial at all times.

But it was his visit to Sarajevo that Bowen found most painful.

He said, 'During the Bosnian conflict, two children were killed in 'sniper's alley'.

'You do your best to be objective in this job, but you can't be objective about killing children.

'To be back there, to remember that day and see their graves was just ghastly. It summed up the useless waste of life.'

He saw his first dead body while covering his first war in El Salvador aged 29. Now as a father of two, who enjoys taking his children out in London parks, Jeremy puts his family first, so he is less likely to seek out the world's most dangerous trouble spots that he once frequented.

He is looking forward to moving to sunny Italy in February for a six-month role with the BBC as their correspondent based in Rome.

And on Sunday, January 16, the former Cardiff High School pupil will present On the Front Line, a BBC 1 programme devoted to war reporting.

In the programme the BBC's World Affairs Correspondent explores the lives and motivations of those whose work revolves around death and destruction.

In the past four years more than 60 journalists have died in combat zones and 44-year-old Jeremy, who has reported on conflicts from more than 70 countries, will look at the role of the men and women who risk their lives to bring the horrors of distant wars into our living rooms.

He will examine the psychological costs of constantly bearing witness to man's inhumanity and will talk to some of most famous war reporters of our generation.

On the Front Line is on BBC1 on Sunday, January 16, from 10.15 pm to 11.15 pm.: NIGHTMARES DESCEND ON BEAUTIFUL SETTINGS:Jeremy bowen has just returned from reporting on the Asian tsunami which he describes as everyone's worst nightmare. He said, 'Wars can be difficult to get your head round but everyone can relate to the tsunami. You are on a beach in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and a huge tidal wave sweeps you away.

'I have covered some big natural disasters in the world, including four or five earthquakes and a cyclone in 1991 when 139,000 people were killed but that's almost been forgotten about. The tsunami was colossal. It was only the third natural catastrophe since the arrival of the digital world that has shrunk the globe. We see children scraping through the ruins of what was their home, searching for their families.': Career highlights:In 1995 Jeremy Bowen won Best News Correspondent at the New York Television Festival and won Best Breaking News Report for his coverage of President Rabin's assassination.

He hosted BBC One's Breakfast, and was the BBC's Middle East correspondent in the mid 1990s.

He presented a landmark documentary on Moses, which was followed up by the award-winning Son of God.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 13, 2005
Words:1031
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