Terry Lloyd's TV crew may have escaped firefight, inquiry finds

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The Independent Online

Hopes were raised last night for two missing members of the television crew accompanying the journalist Terry Lloyd after ITN revealed that they might have escaped the firefight in which he was killed.

Hopes were raised last night for two missing members of the television crew accompanying the journalist Terry Lloyd after ITN revealed that they might have escaped the firefight in which he was killed.

An investigation by the news organisation suggests Fred Nerac, a cameraman, and Hussein Osman, a translator, may have been abducted by Iraqi militiamen moments before the firefight broke out.

ITN has discovered that British soldiers from the Black Watch regiment later found the two men's press passes at the oil institute in Zubayr, which is believed to have been used as offices by Baath party officials.

One unidentified Iraqi claims to have seen the men alive in Zubayr after the shooting. The men's Mitsubishi Pajero vehicle was also found in Zubayr, stripped and dumped in the yard of a house.

The initial assumption was that Mr Nerac and Mr Osman must have died with Mr Lloyd when their convoy came under fire from US forces on the road outside Basra in southern Iraq on 22 March.

Nothing has been heard from the two men since.

The Baath stronghold of Zubayr is the town where two British engineers were killed at about the same time as the incident involving Mr Lloyd's crew.

Yesterday, ITN executives launched a strongly worded attack on Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, for his failure to help find out what happened to the missing men.

In a letter to Mark Wood, ITN chairman,Mr Hoon said he would only investigate if the news organisation produced evidence that a war crime had been committed. Mr Wood called Mr Hoon's position "extraordinary".

He urged the Defence Secretary to instruct the Royal Military Police, who were in effect responsible for law and order in the area where the incident took place, to "actively investigate the whereabouts" of the two men.

ITN also called on the Ministry of Defence to organise the return to Britain of DNA samples from 18 unidentified bodies in the mortuary of al-Jamuriyah Hospital in Basra.

Mr Lloyd's body was found in the same hospital after an ITN colleague identified him while watching footage broadcast by the Arab station al-Jazeera. But ITN believes Nerac and Osman are unlikely to be among the 18.

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