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WHY DID YOU FIRE ON HIM?; EXCLUSIVE ITN DEMAND PENTAGON ANSWERS.

Byline: TOM NEWTON DUNN Defence Correspondent

FURIOUS ITN bosses have demanded that the Pentagon explain why US forces fired on a civilian Iraqi minibus taking injured reporter Terry Lloyd to hospital.

The shocking new evidence about the veteran newsman's death was revealed by the Daily Mirror yesterday.

A Basra businessman told Army investigators Lloyd was not killed in crossfire, as originally believed.

He claims Lloyd died later, when his vehicle was strafed by an American helicopter gunship on the way to hospital.

ITN also revealed for the first time yesterday details of their own internal investigation into what happened to 50-year-old Lloyd.

They also believe a US helicopter shot at the back of the retreating minibus, ITN chief executive Mark Wood said.

A US bullet hit Lloyd in the head while he was in the minibus, an ITN spokeswoman added.

The father-of-two had earlier been struck in the stomach by an Iraqi bullet, a pathologist found.

The wound probably happened in the initial exchange of fire when the ITN team came between US and Iraqi troops south of Basra.

The findings, which pose serious questions about the conduct of US troops, had been kept secret.

In an email to brief all ITN staff yesterday in light of the Mirror story, ITN chief executive Mark Wood revealed: "We know from two post-mortems carried out after the return of Terry's body to the UK that he suffered two severe bullet wounds, one from Iraqi and one from American fire, and either of them could have caused his death.

"Witness testimony ITN has gathered in Iraq suggests Terry, suffering from the first wound, was barely conscious when helped into an Iraqi minibus at the scene of the incident and was able to utter only a few words before he lapsed into unconsciousness.

"Our information says that, within minutes, the minibus came under attack from US forces, possibly a helicopter, and Terry sustained a further serious wound.

"Ten minutes later when the minibus reached the hospital in Basra, he was no longer alive."

Mr Wood, added: "We have made all our information available to both US and British military investigators and have asked for a comprehensive explanation of the course of events and reasons the minibus came under US fire."

A full investigation into his death and the disappearance of ITN cameraman Fred Nerac, 43, and Lebanese translator Hussein Othman is being carried out by the Royal Military Police's Special Investigations Branch based in southern Iraq.

Last night, an MoD spokesman confirmed ITN had raised the matter with them.

He said: "We have been in regular contact with Mark Wood and ITN since the incident about a range of issues and we believe they may have been in contact with US authorities."

But the spokesman refused to say whether investigators had discovered which unit fired on Mr Aglan's minibus, and added: "We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation."

The Geneva Convention clearly forbids soldiers firing on ambulances or unarmed civilians.

If businessman Hamid Aglan's testimony is proved to be correct, the helicopter crew could face war crimes charges.

Mr Aglan, 58, said of Mr Lloyd's death: "Some soldiers flagged me down and begged me to take them to hospital.

"The helicopter pilot killed him. It should not have happened.

"The journalist would have lived if I had got him to hospital.

"I was told he would have died instantly. There was nothing anyone could have done for him after he was hit."

Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner yesterday told the Mirror he may now call Mr Aglan to give evidence during his inquest into Mr Lloyd's death.

The official inquiry was opened shortly after Mr Lloyd's body was returned to Britain in April, but adjourned until the end of the Royal Military Police probe.

Coroner Mr Gardiner yesterday said: "What he has to say is certainly interesting news and it could be that we may invite him to give evidence.

"I shall wait until I have the Special Investigation Branch's full report before I decide who will be called before the court.

"As he lives outside of Britain, I cannot force him to come, I can only invite him, but I may be able to pay his travel costs."

Sent: 10 September 2003 12:46 To: Everyone From: Mark Wood

Our information says that within minutes the minibus came under attack from US forces - possibly a helicopter - and that Terry sustained a further serious wound. Ten minutes later when the minibus reached the hospital in Basra he was no longer alive.

We have made all our information available to both US and British military investigators and have asked for a comprehensive explanation of the course of events and the reasons the minibus came under US fire. We have been assured that British military police are investigating the disappearance of Fred Nerac and Hussein Othman as well as the cicumstances surrounding Terry's death.

CAPTION(S):

CLAIM: Aglan, top, helped Lloyd; EMAIL: ITN chief executive Mark Wood debriefed staff after the Mirror's front page story yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2003
Words:839
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