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Iraq19 September 2003

Progress in hunt for missing media workers

Reporters Without Borders said today it was encouraged by progress in a British military police enquiry into the fate of two missing media workers - French cameraman Frédéric Nérac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman, of the British TV network ITN - six months after they vanished without trace after being caught in shooting between US Marines and Iraqi forces near Basra, in southern Iraq, on 22 March.

British forces, who are in charge of the area, opened an official investigation in June and are now conducting searches and taking evidence from witnesses. They have not yet found solid indication of what happened to the pair, but US officials are now being helpful and France is cooperating with the enquiry.

Nérac’s wife Fabienne Nérac is available for interview by journalists and can be contacted through Reporters Without Borders at +33 (0)1.4483-8484.

A team of four non-"embedded" ITN journalists, including Nérac and Osman, were caught in the shooting on the second day of the US-British invasion of Iraq.

British star reporter Terry Lloyd was killed, probably by US gunfire, and his colleague, Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier, who was in the same jeep (marked "TV") was wounded. Demoustier hid in a ditch and was then taken to Kuwait by a passing British journalist. Nérac, 43, and Osman, 28, who were driving another vehicle, also marked "TV," vanished without trace.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell personally promised Nérac’s wife at a Brussels press conference on 3 April that US officials would find out what had happened.

The two men’s journalists’ cards were found at Baath party offices in Al-Zubair, about 20 kms south of Baghdad, on 7 May. British authorities at first refused to make an official enquiry, saying ITN should first provide evidence that a war crime had been committed. But they relented in late May and began investigating in early June.

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