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Soldier 'saw US tank fire on ITN car'

London Telegraph /Richard Alleyne | October 7 2006

A British soldier said yesterday that he saw the car of the ITN journalist Terry Lloyd burst into flames after being fired on by an American tank during the invasion of Iraq.

The soldier, understood to be a member of the special forces who was carrying out surveillance, said he thought the tank "engaged" first on a convoy which included the reporter's car and an Iraqi pick-up truck with a gun mounted on the top.

He said he saw Mr Lloyd's vehicle and the truck burst into flames and veer off the road. He believed no one got out of either vehicle.

The serviceman, known as soldier B, who gave his evidence from behind a screen to protect his identity, was speaking on the fourth day of the veteran broadcaster's inquest in Oxford.

It is the first public acknowledgement that British forces witnessed the events of March 22, 2003, in which Mr Lloyd, 50, and his interpreter Hussein Osman died, and his French cameraman Fred Nerac went missing near Basra in southern Iraq. Soldier B told the coroner that he was about 500 yards away when he saw three vehicles.

The first was understood to be that of Mr Lloyd and cameraman Daniel Demoustier; the second an Iraqi pick-up truck with a machinegun mounted on the back, and the third the vehicle of Mr Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Mr Osman.

He told the coroner: "I can't say for sure who engaged first. My recollection is that the tank engaged the vehicles."

He said he saw an exchange of fire between the Iraqi pick-up truck and an American tank for about 30 seconds before the pick-up truck burst into flames. "Vehicle One [Mr 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 coroner asked: "Did you see anyone leave that vehicle?"

Soldier B replied: "No."

He added: "During the engagement, two people got out of the rear vehicle from each side – the passenger and driver – and dashed about 20 metres and took cover.

"The 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."

The coroner asked him: "Did you see the bullets land in any other area than the area where the people [were taking cover], say near Vehicle One?" "No," he replied.

Earlier Nick Walshe, an ITN journalist asked by his company to investigate how Mr Lloyd died, said he had spoken to Iraqi witnesses who said Mr Lloyd had been shot in the head by American forces as he was being evacuated from the firefight.

One "very credible" witness, who said he had driven the minibus which took Mr Lloyd to hospital, said he had picked him up after he had been shot in the shoulder and had his arm broken.

Before he could get to hospital the makeshift ambulance came under fire from American soldiers and Mr Lloyd was shot in the head.

The inquest continues.

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