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Explosion Kills Five in Northern Iraq

March 22, 2003

GERDIGO, Iraq (AP) _ An apparent car bomb killed at least five people, including an Australian cameraman, at a road checkpoint Saturday near a camp of the al-Qaida-linked militant group Ansar al-Islam. At least eight people were injured.

The group’s base in northeastern Iraq was attacked overnight by U.S. cruise missiles.

Also Saturday, Britain’s ITN television news reported that three members of an ITN news crew were missing after coming under fire en route to Basra in southern Iraq.

The missing men were identified as reporter Terry Lloyd, cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Othman.

Another cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was injured as the crew drove toward Basra in two vehicles. ITN said in London that Demoustier was not able to see what happened to his colleagues.

The journalist killed in the north was Paul Moran, 39, a freelance cameraman with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the ABC said in a statement.

ABC correspondent Eric Campbell had minor shrapnel injuries, the statement said.

Journalists had gone to the checkpoint to interview refugees streaming out of the area that had been attacked. One of the cars coming out with the refugees exploded, according to an account pieced together from witnesses and reporters.

Another civilian and three Peshmergas, or Kurdish soldiers, also were killed. None of their identities were made known immediately.

The shattered remains of a car were scattered around the checkpoint near the tiny village of Gerdigo, about six miles north of Khurmal.

The area is part of the Kurdish-controlled enclave protected from Saddam Hussein’s forces by U.S. and British aircraft that patrol a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. The Ansar al-Islam camp, however, is outside the control of Kurdish forces.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the main Kurdish group in the area, seized control of the checkpoint Saturday from a rival group that was driven away by the missile barrage.

After U.S. forces fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at suspected positions of the Ansar al-Islam guerrillas, hundreds of people fled Khurmal, which is about eight miles from the Iranian border.

``I am afraid of another barrage of missiles coming at us,″ said Mohammed Rahman, 17, as he walked away from Khurmal with his cousins, carrying a bag with clothing in it.

``We’re living an abnormal life, we’re living in endless fear and war,″ said Rangi Said, 18 who carried a basket with food.

The Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that Saturday’s attack appeared to be targeting journalists. The statement cited a photographer at the scene.

Moran, who was based in Paris, had worked extensively in the Middle East. He is survived by his wife and baby daughter, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Web site said.

Update hourly