PARIS, March 22 (AFP) – The family and friends of a French cameraman who has been missing since coming under fire in the Iraq war, allegedly by US or British forces, held a symbolic demonstration in Paris on Monday to demand information as to his fate.
Around 50 red and white balloons were released into the sky over the Louvre museum on the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Frederic Nerac in the south of Iraq while working for British television news network ITN.
The 43-year-old Nerac was in a convoy that came under fire, apparently from British or US forces, near Basra in southern Iraq on March 22, 2003. ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd was killed, while both Nerac and a Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, disappeared.
“It’s now a year that my husband has gone and I still don’t know what happened,” Nerac’s wife Fabienne told reporters while holding their two children, Alexandre and Camille.
“The aim of this gathering is to make the whole world understand – the French, British and US authorities – that we can’t live like this, that the search must continue, that we have to have an answer,” she said.
Fabienne Nerac and ITN on Monday both dismissed as premature a British press report that he had been killed by US fire.
“I was present for all the military briefings and it is one of several leads, one of several theories, that are still being checked out,” Fabienne Nerac told AFP in a telephone interview.
The Daily Mirror tabloid paper reported on Monday that both men were killed by US fire, coming either from a helicopter or tank.
“We cannot state that this is what happened, not at all,” Nerac told AFP.
“There are some witnesses who say so, but there are other, more important, witnesses who have yet to be found. Therefore we have to carry on.”
British military police opened a formal inquiry into the incident last June.
“As long as the British military police inquiry is under way, our opinion is that it is too soon to reach any firm conclusion about the deaths of Fred and Hussein,” said a spokeswoman for Nerac’s employer at the time, British television network ITN.
ITN’s spokeswoman said the Mirror’s report was based “on interviews conducted by the newspaper’s journalist in Iraq and on the journalist’s own conclusions.”
According to both ITN and Nerac, military investigators are still studying conflicting eyewitness reports to establish the facts surrounding the incident.
Robert Menard, head of the Paris based media rights group Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), said Monday: “Part of the truth is in the hands of the US forces… which are not participating in the inquiry.”
© AFP (combined reports)
Subject: France news