My Greatest Mistake: George Alagiah, presenter, Bbc Six O'Clock News

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It was at the height of the Somali civil war. We had done all the filming and were about to leave. But as our aircraft was coming in, it was shot at and turned tail.

Then I heard that the ITN team had managed to get out. I utterly lost my calm. I just thought: "I don't care what it takes - I've got to get out of here. I'm not having them getting a lead on me."

An aid worker told me that there was an airport three hours away. I didn't ask any of the questions I should have. When we got there, we discovered that it was overrun with gunmen - this airstrip played a big role in the local drug trade.

There was no sign of our plane. Eventually, it dawned on us that it was not going to come. I was going to have to persuade someone else to take us.

I walked along the row of planes, and pilot after pilot just said: "Are you kidding?" Finally, we persuaded one man to get us out.

As we were about to take off, one of the gunmen came and sat on the wing. Then the others surrounded us and said: "Give us all your money, or this plane doesn't take off."

There was another British guy with us, who was very sick with dengue fever. Until then, he had been stretched out in the middle of the aisle. But suddenly he popped up. He realised he had a brilliant idea that might just save the day.

"I know what," he told the gunman, "we'll nip to the bank in Nairobi tomorrow. Then we will send you the cash. How about that?"

The bloody-eyed gang leader looked rather dubious. But as the cogs attempted to click into place - unsuccessfully, I am delighted to say - he responded: "All right, then."

He got off the plane, and we were able to take off.

Alas, that was probably his greatest mistake: the last thing we saw as we rose into the air was the sight of this great bruiser being beaten with rifle-butts by his angry comrades.

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