Fear and suspicion inside the kill zone

Phillip - he does not want his surname published - is a civil engineer on a six-month contract in Iraq with a US construction company, which he has already extended by three months. Back home, he would normally commute into London from his home in Kent.

"I would take a train at 7.30am from Sevenoaks. There were always delays, you could never sit down. And the routine was so tedious," he said. "Coming to Iraq seemed a good idea at the time. I am 37 years old and I am earning 40 per cent more than I was getting in the UK, and living expenses are negligible.

"But then you think about what happened to poor Ken Bigley ... It's very sad, but also very scary. My wife is extremely worried, she wants me to go home as soon as possible."

Iraq is now effectively one big killing ground, and the expatriate community, including 2,100 British nationals in Baghdad, are already living in a state of siege. The waves of diplomats, businessmen, aid workers and journalists who arrived at the end of the war have largely evaporated. A small fraction remain behind, either counting the days to their return home, or bringing that date forward.

More than 150 foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq, and 23 of them killed, with many of the murders filmed. Unsurprisingly, the effects on reconstruction have been devastating, with many projects vastly behind schedule. There are other threats beside abduction. While the US forces and their Iraqi allies attack insurgents in Samarra, Babil and Fallujah, the enemy has brought the war home to the Iraqi capital. Not a day goes by without a suicide car-bombing or a mortar or rocket attack, often in the city centre.

Even staying "locked down" in heavily guarded hotels or houses in barricaded compounds is no guarantee of safety. A few hours after Mr Bigley's murder in Latifiya, a short drive south-west of Baghdad, on Thursday, rockets were slamming into the Ishtar Sheraton in the heart of the city.

The hotel, and the Palestine opposite, are homes to a large number of contractors, security personnel and American media organisations including CNN, Fox News and The Washington Post. They are guarded by Iraqi troops and American armoured cars, but that has not stopped nine attacks since the war. Further down in the same complex are the BBC, Reuters and The New York Times. It takes 15 minutes to walk from the car park outside the fortress to their houses. The journalists have been told not to go outside the walls unless absolutely necessary. Last week a pick-up truck full of explosives, hidden by a load of dates, drove into a convoy of private security guards leaving the complex. Three people were killed.

Most other foreigners stay in the Green Zone, a 10 sq km "sanitised" area where the US and British embassies and the offices of the Iraqi interim government are based. It is bristling with guns and security; even with the right credentials one has to undergo repeated searches.

It is a slice of middle America with joggers along the tree-lined avenues, a mall, a bazaar, cafés and restaurants catering to Western tastes. But one cannot keep Baghdad out. On average, mortars are lobbed in from the streets outside three times a day. Three days ago a bomb was discovered outside the Green Zone café, one of the most popular attractions for off-duty soldiers. There are dangers of kidnapping even here, and the foreign residents, especially women, are advised not to go out by themselves after dark.

TOLL SINCE KEN BIGLEY'S CAPTURE

Eugene Armstrong, 20 September

"Jack", as the 52-year-old was known to friends, had worked on construction projects in Angola and Thailand before travelling to Baghdad. In a memorial service in Michigan last month, friends remembered a "multi-talented" man full of enthusiasm.

Jack Hensley, 21 September

Killed the day before he turned 49, he had travelled to Iraq, leaving a wife and 13-year-old daughter in the US. The civil engineer was working on water, electricity and schools programmes.

Akar Besir, 21 September

A Turkish driver working for the American military, Mr Besir was taken hostage around 18 September. His body was found in the northern city of Mosul.

Anwar Wali, 2 October

The 44-year-old was kidnapped at the end of August from his Baghdad home and killed by militants who accused him of spying. Mr Wali was an Italian citizen of Iraqi origin. The Italian government described him as a businessman.

Yalmaz Dabja, 2 October

Mr Dabja, 33, was executed at the same time as Mr Wali. A video released by his killers shows him being forced to kneel in front of a ditch before being shot. He was also accused of spying.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star