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Grief unites mothers on warring sides

London, March 26 (Reuters): American mother Anecita Hudson first learnt that her son had been captured in Iraq when she saw film footage of him on Iraqi television.

When Iraqi mother Shafa Hussein returned from taking her sick son to a Baghdad hospital, she found her home in ruins, destroyed by US-British air strikes.

British mother Val Hunt cannot eat, sleep or work worrying about her son Stephen, who at 18 is the youngest British soldier fighting in Iraq.

In this 21st century conflict that is fought out live on round-the-clock television, the agony of war is etched on the face of anxious mothers on both sides.

The battle for Iraq is being played out before a worldwide audience. Graphic war images abound. On both sides, generals and politicians talk up their triumphs, play down their failures.

Then suddenly the conflict strikes a poignant, personal note.

Anecita’s worst nightmare came true when she was watching a satellite channel.

“I saw my son on TV and I said ‘Oh My God’. I looked at him and he looked so scared. I started crying,” she said, recalling the searing images of her 23-year-old son Joseph.

Clutching her rosary beads, she begged President George W. Bush to help her captured son.

“Please do something for my son. I don’t want him to get cold and I don't want him to get hungry,” she said.“It’s like a bad dream seeing your son get captured on TV.”

The utter sense of desolation was just as real for Shafa in central Baghdad.

Her house was reduced to rubble and her belongings, including money, food and furniture, were buried under concrete.

“Thank God that my husband, my child and myself were not hurt,” she said.

Across the world in Britain, Val cannot help but fear the worst for her 18-year-old son Stephen.

“I feel like he’s never going to come home. I know I shouldn’t even entertain these thoughts but I can’t help it,” she said.

“It has now been almost a week since I heard from him and I can’t eat, sleep or work,” she added.

And, like millions around the globe, she is glued to the television.

“It is on all the time from the moment I wake up to to the moment I go to bed,” she said.

With 22 British servicemen dead or missing in Iraq, flags are at half mast at military bases across the country and families are struggling to put into words their shock and grief.

Sgt Steven Roberts, 33, became the first British combat victim after being shot while he was trying to calm rioting civilians.

His mother Marion offered a simple epitaph that may well be echoed by many more mothers in this conflict: “He was the best son anyone could have. He made us laugh. He was the most perfect son ever. All his family and friends will really miss him.”

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