The Day My World Exploded

The Story of the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) Bombing                                                                                                   As told by Peter Worby from First Allied Travel Insurance
 

It was the 20th of June and I had a meeting at the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) in Al Mansour, Baghdad, with senior officials of TBI and NIC (The National Insurance Company). Both entities were Government owned and run by the Ministry of Finance.

I arrived by car with my driver for the 10am meeting and was escorted to the meeting room. My driver waited in our car in the Bank’s car park.

We’d been in the meeting about 30 minutes when there was a large explosion and a floor standing AC unit was propelled into my back. Glass and debris started raining down so I instinctively dived under the conference table as I could feel glass cutting my head. When I looked up from the table after a couple of minutes everyone else had left the room and I was there by myself.

Iraqis started beckoning me from the room opposite to join them. I mistakenly assumed it was a safe room, so I joined them. I was the only Westerner in the building to my knowledge, and most people inside the room were understandably fairly hysterical. I asked why we were waiting in the room as there was only one exit via a staircase to the ground floor. They, like me, were aware that a couple of weeks earlier the Central Bank in Baghdad had been attacked in a similar manner and immediately after the bombing gunmen had entered the bank shooting people. One person told me gunmen were coming and they all wanted to be together if they were killed.

A couple of minutes later there was a second explosion from an additional car bomb and the room was filled with falling debris, smoke and leaking water. I was propelled by the blast behind some filing cabinets.

I sent an SMS to my then CEO who was in Amman stating that I was on the floor in TBI; we were being attacked and it was a mess. He texted back asking if myself and my driver were OK and that he would arrange for a friend to collect me. The mobile networks then went dead.

I climbed the stairs to the ground floor and exited the building to a view of carnage, police, military and fire engines.  I went to turn left towards our car but the vehicles there were severely damaged from the two blasts.  An Iraqi military person asked me where I was going and then told me there was no point as if my driver was there, he was dead.  This was devastating news.  The soldier refused to let me remain at the Bank as they were expecting gunmen and told me to leave. I had no cellphone signal, so I couldn’t contact anyone and had no idea which direction to walk to where I was living, so I simply walked.

After about 10 – 15 minutes my cellphone rang and it was an English friend, Bert, who lives in Baghdad and knows the city well. He asked me if my driver was OK, to which I replied, I think he is dead. I told him I had left the Bank but had no idea where I was. I was by a large roundabout which I described to him. He said move from there now my friend as you are not welcome. When I asked why, he said it was Nisour Square where previously Blackwater had killed 18 civilians and it was extremely dangerous for Westerners. He told me which exit to take from Nisour Square but said as the authorities had closed roads leading to the Bank I would have about a 45 minute walk to where he could meet me. He told me to be extremely vigilant as the walk was potentially very dangerous.

So I started walking. My head was bleeding slightly and I was wearing a suit and tie, so I took my tie, off opened the shirt collar and avoided getting close to anyone during the walk; looked nobody in the eyes and managed to walk through a military checkpoint without being stopped or questioned. The walk was uneventful thankfully and I must admit I wasn’t nervous which I think was due to my inevitable adrenaline overdose.

I eventually noticed Bert’s pick up after about 45 minutes, ran across the dual carriageway and climbed in. He then drove me back to the villa I was staying in. I thought the drive took about 20 minutes but apparently it was nearer 90 minutes. I think any idea of time was scrambled due to shell shock and adrenaline. I entered the villa which was about 1.5 km from the bank and to my surprise the bombs had blown out some of the windows in the villa. It was only then that I realized how large the explosions were and how fortunate I had been especially as it was later reported that nearly 100 people had died that day.  My driver fortunately survived the explosions but suffered multiple puncture wounds and permanent hearing loss in one ear.

I had been back in the villa about 15 minutes, with everyone amazed I had survived. Then my cellphone rang, it was my son Craig calling from the UK and he said, “Happy Father’s Day Dad, how are you?” To which I replied, “I’m not sure Craig; I have just been blown up in Baghdad!”

 

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