Veteran CBS newsman Bob Simon said he and three colleagues, held prisoner in Iraq for a month, were beaten with canes and narrowly escaped death when their prison took a direct hit by allied bombs.
"They beat us with canes, with sticks on the legs, on the head," Simon, 49, told CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday.Simon, a veteran of the network for more than 20 years, Peter Bluff, 47, CBS News' London bureau chief, Roberto Alvarez, 37, a cameraman, and Juan Caldera, 27, a television soundman, were released Saturday after 40 days in Iraqi custody and flew to London.
Despite repeated beatings, the former captives said the worst part of their ordeal was the allied bombing. One of the bombs landed on their prison.
"I heard the bombs, then I heard the bomb coming," Caldera recalled. "The sounds were incredible and I knew, I knew it was coming to me . . . so I just crouched into a corner and there was a big door and rubble fell."
Simon said that after that bombing, "I had a certain faith that wouldn't leave me, that `this is as close a call as you'll ever have.' "
The veteran correspondent said his Iraqi captors would torment him by beating his three fellow prisoners within earshot during interrogations.
"When they were getting to these important questions, they opened the door and beat Juan, Peter and Roberto so they would scream, and I would hear them scream while they were asking me questions and beating me at the same time," Simon said.
Their captors repeatedly accused the four of being spies and kept taunting them by mentioning the name of British journalist Farzod Bazoft, who was executed by the Iraqis after being accused of spying.
Doctors who examined the four after their release said they appeared healthy.
"I find them in remarkably good shape," Dr. Stuart Sanders Stuart told CBS News. He said it did not appear the four were tortured but were "beaten on occasion." From a medical perspective, he said the beatings were not severe.
CBS spokeswoman Donna Dees said the four were taken first to London because the trip was "shorter" than to New York. She also noted Bluff is British.
Before releasing the four, Iraqi officials drove them around Baghdad to show them bomb damage.
New York's famed Carnegie Deli promptly responded to a request from Simon. Manager Benjamin Harris packed four corned beef and pastrami combo sandwiches, eight bottles of creme soda, a cheesecake, a slice of fudge layer cake, pickles and "lots of Russian (dressing) and mustard" in a cooler bound for London.
"He asked for it, and we were glad to comply," Harris said.