ITN JOURNALIST WAS KILLED BY US FORCES – witness tells inquest

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Witnesses giving evidence to the continuing inquest into the death in Iraq of veteran ITN war reporter Terry Lloyd in March 2003 have said he was shot dead in the head by US forces, after being wounded by an Iraqi bullet.

Only one member has survived, of the 4-man independent team Lloyd was leading during the initial stages of the Iraq war.

The inquest in Oxford before Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker heard on Tuesday that colleagues of Terry Lloyd were put into an Iraqi truck just before it was hit by machine gun fire from US tanks.

Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman was killed and the remains of French cameraman Fred Nerac were never found.

The inquest has heard Lloyd, in another car, was killed by a US bullet.

The group came across an Iraqi convoy as they were driving toward the Shatt Al Basra bridge in southern Iraq on 22 March 2003.

Nerac and Osman were driving behind Lloyd and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier.

Major Kay Roberts, of the Royal Military Police, told the inquest on Tuesday that witnesses said Nerac and Osman were taken out of their marked TV car and put into the back of a pick-up truck.

Lloyd and Mr Demoustier waited in the car in front.

Kay said she was told the vehicle was part of a convoy carrying a Ba’ath Party leader to Basra.

She added that witnesses had said the pick-up truck was shot at and exploded.

Kay said of the occupants: ‘Both were blown out and away from the vehicle and sustained serious lower limb injuries.’

She added that Nerac was ‘unlikely to have survived’ if witnesses were to be believed.

Giving evidence on Monday, sole survivor, Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier, said he was ‘100 per cent convinced I was going to die’, when his and Lloyd’s vehicle was fired on by American tanks.

Demoustier said the 4-man team had been driving in two cars towards the Al-Shatt bridge on the road to Basra.

He said they turned round when they came upon Iraqi troops.

A car containing two Iraqi soldiers who appeared to be officers pulled up alongside the vehicle he was driving with Lloyd in the passenger seat.

He said: ‘They were smiling at me, they put their thumbs up.’ – All of a sudden his vehicle came under fire, but definitely not from the Iraqi vehicle.

Demoustier said: ‘All hell broke loose. There was machine gun fire directly targeting my car, the whole car was going to pieces, it was amazing.

‘I was 100 per cent convinced I was going to die.

‘I realised at that stage I was coming under automatic machine gun fire probably from tanks and the power of these things is amazing.

‘I saw the passenger door was open and Terry was not in the car anymore.

‘The car kept moving a while. The next thing, I’m looking up at the roof and the whole of it’s burning.

‘We had so much petrol on board it was starting to explode.’

Wounded, and after making a last-ditch attempt to grab his camera, Demoustier threw himself into the sand when the car exploded and lay low for 15 to 30 minutes.

At one point, he attempted to alert the American tanks to his presence by holding up his hands.

He said: ‘I tried to get up and put my hands in the air facing the line of American tanks.

‘I couldn’t imagine that they couldn’t see me, I was in a clearly marked, four-wheel drive with TV signs on it and Kuwaiti plates.

‘These guys can see every detail from hundreds of yards away with their binoculars. I stood up with my hands up but they started firing again.

‘They were at least 100 or 200 yards away.’

Continuing his testimony, Demoustier said he was later picked up by an Iraqi minibus, which also came under US fire, forcing him to bail out once again.

He finally reached safety when he was picked up by another press team and driven to a mosque.

In last Friday’s session, the Oxford inquest took witness from a UK soldier, known only to the court as Soldier B, who gave evidence from behind a screen.

It was the first public acknowledgement that British forces witnessed the events of 22 March 2003, when Lloyd and his interpreter Osman died and French cameraman Nerac went missing.

Soldier B said that he saw three vehicles – one thought to be carrying Lloyd and cameraman Demoustier, the second an Iraqi pick-up truck with a machine gun on the back, and a third with Nerac and Osman inside.

He said he witnessed an exchange of fire between the US tank and the Iraqi vehicle for about 30 seconds before the truck burst into flames.

He told the inquest: ‘I can’t say for sure who it was engaged first.

‘My recollection is that the tank engaged the vehicles.’

Soldier B added that Lloyd’s vehicle ‘also ignited and went off to the side of the road to its right and came to rest on the side of a field, burning’.

The screened soldier said he did not see anyone leave Lloyd’s vehicle, but saw the driver and passenger in the third vehicle run for cover.

Continuing his evidence, Soldier B said that the US tank ‘continued to fire at the position where the people had taken cover.

‘I couldn’t see them but I could see it firing in that direction for a maximum of a minute.

‘Once there was no further movement in the area and the threat had been taken out, the firing stopped.’

After the firing had stopped, at this point, said Soldier B, he saw a green minibus stop.

Although it was difficult to see, with black smoke all around, it appeared as if people were helped into the minibus.

The Army witness said that when he returned to the scene about eight hours later, there were no bodies or evidence of anyone injured in Nerac’s and Hussein’s vehicle.

In the Iraqi pick-up truck, he said he found three charred bodies and one body outside.

Also during Friday’s hearing, ITN journalist Nicholas Walshe gave evidence about his investigation, on behalf of ITN, into the death of his colleague.

Walshe told the inquest that he spoke to Iraqis, of varying credibility, who said they were present in the minibus when Lloyd was shot for the second time.

One Iraqi told Walshe that he saw Lloyd injured on the ground and put him into the minibus.

The Iraqi witness told Walshe he heard him say in Arabic ‘Sahafi’, meaning ‘journalist’, before he died.

Walshe added that another ‘very credible’ Iraqi said he had driven the minibus which took Lloyd to hospital.

The Iraqi driver said Lloyd ‘appeared shot in the shoulder and his arm was broken’, Walshe told the coroner.

‘He had been lying in the sand between two lanes of the road and walked to the car but was too weak to get in it without help.’

Walshe said the Iraqi then told him: ‘Terry was shot in the head by US troops while the vehicle was leaving the scene.

‘He showed the hole in the vehicle where he said the bullet passed through,’ Walshe added.

Another Iraqi told ITN’s investigator he had seen Lloyd crouching by the side of the road and then crawling towards the minibus before he was hit by US fire.