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Family of reporter shot in Iraq call for Marines to face criminal charges

Geneviève Roberts / London Independent | October 14 2006

The family of the television journalist Terry Lloyd have called for the US Marines who opened fire on his convoy to face murder charges, after a coroner ruled that he was unlawfully killed by American forces in the first days of the Iraq war.

Lloyd, a 50-year-old ITN reporter, was killed near the southern Iraqi city of Basra. His family said the death "amounted to murder" and urged the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions "to commence proceedings to bring the soldiers, including their commanding officers, to justice."

The Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker said US troops should not have shot at the makeshift ambulance taking the already wounded war reporter - who was covering the invasion independently rather than as an "embed" with troops - away from the battlefield.

"I have no doubt that it was an unlawful act to fire on this minibus," Mr Walker said. He will write to the Attorney General and the DPP "to see whether any steps can be taken to bring the perpetrators responsible for this to justice".

Lloyd, who was interviewing civilians about their reaction to the invasion, was first shot in the back by Iraqi soldiers when caught in the crossfire between Iraqi and American troops trying to gain control of the city of Basra. A ballistics expert Dr Thomas Warlow said he could have survived with rapid medical treatment.

American troops then started firing at both the clearly marked television vehicles driven by the ITN team. Lloyd was killed outright when he was hit in the head by an American bullet as he was being taken for medical treatment by an Iraqi civilian. "I am sure it was the intention of those who opened fire to kill or cause serious injury to those inside the minibus," Mr Walker said.

"I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire at the vehicle."

Mr Lloyd's Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, was also killed on 22 March 2003 and a French cameraman, Fred Nerac, remains missing, presumed dead.
A Belgian cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was the only survivor from the ITN team.

Mr Demoustier told the inquest that "all hell broke loose" and he was "100 per cent certain" that he was going to die.

Lloyd's widow, Lynn, said: "This was not a friendly fire incident or a crossfire incident, it was a despicable, deliberate, vengeful act, particularly as it came many minutes after the initial exchange."

David Mannion, the editor-in-chief of ITN, said the company would fully support Lloyd's family to "bring those responsible for Terry's death to account before a court of law".

On Tuesday, there will be a meeting of the cross-party National Union of Journalists' parliamentary group to discuss the killing. The secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group and challenger for the Labour leadership, John McDonnell, said: "We are seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State to ensure he demands that there is immediate legal action to bring to trial those involved in the killing of Terry Lloyd."

After the eight-day inquest, Mr Walker cleared ITN of any blame for Lloyd's death and praised the team for their "professionalism and dedication".

And he apologised for the delay in bringing the case to court, saying: "[The family's] suffering, as if it were not enough by itself, has been aggravated by the unacceptable delay in holding this inquest."

A spokesman for the Attorney General said he could not comment on the case, but added: "We await the letter from the coroner."

But a US Defence Department spokesman said that an investigation into the incident in May 2003 "determined that US forces followed the applicable rules of engagement".


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