- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

DUBAI — The former fighter pilot fled his home just 15 minutes after a near-fatal attack by eight armed men, escaping with only the clothes on his back and reaching Dubai through the help of boyhood friends.

The ordeal of the pilot — a former Ba’athist and supporter of the anti-U.S. insurgency — shows that no one is safe from Baghdad’s sectarian violence.

“I want to go back, but I can’t,” said the man, who asked not to be identified to protect his family, which is still in Iraq. “When I go shopping and I see children, I remember my son and I feel afraid for my family.”

The attack that sent the pilot running for his life occurred in February, as he was driving home at midday after going shopping with his 5-year-old son.

Like all Iraqis, he had learned to drive with one eye on the rearview mirror, so he noticed two cars — a Cadillac and a BMW — tailing him. Each car had four passengers and no license plates.

“I said nothing to my son, but I drove very fast to my house. But the main gate was closed, and I didn’t have time to call ahead,” he said.

Panicked, he leaped from the car, leaving his son inside, and ran. The attackers tried to hit him with one of the cars, but he jumped over the vehicle and into his neighbor’s yard. As he ran, he heard the assailants chambering their rounds; then the bullets rained on the neighbor’s kitchen door.

“I ran to the roof. Then I looked down at my car and my son. This was a very difficult moment for me,” said the pilot, sitting in a bare, one-room office in Dubai where he lives, sleeps and works.

As neighbors poured out, he said, the attackers left. His wife ran out to the car and saw her son but not her husband. Thinking he had been kidnapped, she began to weep. His son was in shock.

“It was like a film. Every time I sleep alone, I see this film,” said the pilot, one in a highly trained force that once fought in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Since the attack, his wife and son have moved to a new location and are safe.

But not long after he left, attackers killed another Iraq-Iran war veteran, a top Mirage pilot and the head of Iraq’s F1 fighter-plane squadron. His mutilated body was delivered in pieces in front of his house.

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