An Ordinary Tale ... In Baghdad.

Photo Anwar Abbas, Iraq, CBS
By CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan.

I want to tell you a story, just the way it was told to me. These are not my words, they are the words of an Iraqi man whose name I cannot tell you because his life is under threat.

Does that sound hollow to those of you who feel like you've heard words like that many times before?

Well, it isn't hollow to this man and I'll tell you why. The same people who said they were coming back to kill him and his nephew, just took his brother and executed him...

I think in any language, in any part of the world, it's fair to say the men making these threats mean business. What is fair to say in Iraq, is that when the threat is made, most people here assume it's already over. A done deal.

Those who stay - die. And the rest run for their lives.

But back to the story of the man who is condemned to death. His brother was Anwar Abbas Lafta - our CBS translator who was take from his home by a militia death squad nearly two weeks ago and executed.

This is a harrowing account of what happened, and strangely, sadly, it is also a story of love. The kind-of love any of us anywhere can understand...

"It was about eight thirty at night when Anwar returned home from seeing our uncle at the hospital. He had only been home a few minutes, asked my mom for a cup of tea, when there was a very soft knock on the door".

"It was the kind-of knock a child would make and that's who I expected when I opened the door but instead there was a man standing there who put a pistol in my chest. I tried to push it away, but two more men put pistols at my legs and the first man smashed the butt of his weapon into my head..."

"I screamed to Anwar for help and he reached for his pistol but before he could put the magazine inside, it was too late. They had three men on him, two were huge and they held him from his head and his legs. They looked like body-builders, men who work as professional soldiers or guards during the day and then become death squads at night".

"My mom was near Anwar, bringing him his tea and she shouted out so they beat her. My nephew shouted from the second floor but suddenly there were two men beating him - they knew exactly the layout of the house, who they were coming to find and everything. It was extremely professional, and they knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing".

"They wore body armour and uniforms and would say nothing except that if we did not keep quiet we would be killed".

When Anwar's middle-aged sister saw them taking her brother she knew what it meant. She also knew she had no chance against ten armed men, but that did not stop her.

"My sister threw her arms around Anwar, holding on, trying to stop them but they turned around and shot her in the arm and she let go screaming...," her brother says.

I ask if she is all right now and he says he thinks so, but without much conviction. "It is my mother we are worried about," he adds, "I think she will be dead soon".

As a result of her injuries, the shock, and the trauma she experienced, Anwar's mother has developed extreme levels of sugar in her blood, drastically swollen legs and is now bed-ridden, nursing her grief into an early grave.

Because Anwar kept fighting all the way to the vehicle and because his family kept fighting for him, his brother and nephew have now been threatened.

The phone call came a few days after Anwar's body was found, "We are coming back for you".

Anwar's brother said the hospital post mortem concluded he died two days after being kidnapped. He was killed by a single shot to the back of his head, execution style. But there is one more chilling detail: both his hands were badly broken. In many places. Smashed.

This is in a terrible, weird way, easier to bear than electric drills and nitric acid and other means now widely associated with militia death squads, but it leaves us with the same reality:

Anwar is gone.

I lead his brother up the grand Iraqi-style entrance hall steps to the second floor of our new bureau, (we had to move from the old one after it was blown up by a suicide bomber in June), and there on the wall, under a photo of our CBS crew, James Brolan and Paul Douglas, who were killed in a car bombing over a year ago, is a beautiful framed photograph of Anwar.

We stopped together on the stairs and looked at it for a while. Words were exchanged in Arabic. Glances and silent thoughts shared.

Then Anwar's brother's eyes filled with tears and he turned away...

"I can't look, I can't look," he said to me. And my heart broke all over again.

We know Anwar's story is not unique. We know he is one of many thousands of innocent victims of this war and I know that even as I write this story, someone, somewhere is being pulled out of their home by a death squad, tortured and executed.

I stop almost every time I pass that picture of Anwar on the steps. I sometimes hesitate for just a moment. But I am glad not to forget.

The pain is still with us. It is still too fresh and new. And terrifying.

I wish people who blame the media for not telling the truth about the Iraq war had even the vaguest understanding of what it takes to survive even one day in this place.

  • Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.