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In a welcome but belated move, U.S. army orders inquiry into attack on ITN crew

(RSF/IFEX) - On 2 May 2003, RSF welcomed the United States (U.S.) army's belated decision to investigate the 22 March shooting incident in southern Iraq in which ITN reporter Terry Lloyd was killed and two members of Lloyd's crew went missing. However, the organisation deplored the fact that an inquiry was not ordered sooner. The decision to launch an inquiry was reported to ITN by Colonel Ray Sheperd of Centcom in Qatar on 28 April.

"It was high time the U.S. army decided to investigate this tragic incident," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said. "It is a safe bet that it was ITN's independent inquiry in the field rather than Colin Powell's promises that forced the U.S. military to end their silence on the incident and offer an explanation."

While on an official visit to Brussels on 3 April, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Fabienne Nerac, the wife of Frédéric Nerac, one of the two missing ITN crew members, he would "personally" undertake to obtain information about her husband's fate. She has yet to receive any further information from the American authorities.

"ITN and my family have been asking the Americans to launch an investigation for the past 40 days," Fabienne Nerac said. "Now they finally have, and I hope we are going to receive information quickly. The Americans have promised to question their marines, locate the videotape recording they made at the site of the incident, and to give us a report on the progress of the investigation each week," she said.

In the 22 March incident, a four-member crew from Britain's Independent Television News (ITN) came under fire near the southern city of Basra. The gunfire probably came from a group of U.S. marines. Lloyd, aged 51, was killed and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was wounded. The two other members of the crew, French cameraman Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Othman, have been missing ever since.

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