Some Missing Journalists Reported Held By Iraqi Forces
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ An Iraqi opposition group said today some of the Western journalists reported missing in southern Iraq have been seen in the custody of government forces.
However, a few reporters who had been unaccounted for telephoned their news organizations and said they are all right.
About three dozen journalists - including some Americans - have been reported missing. They went to southern Iraq last weekend to cover a rebellion against President Saddam Hussein.
In Syria, the spokesman for Iraqi Shiite Moslems opposed to Saddam said his group had been told five foreign journalists were seen being led out of the Iraqi port city of Basra on Monday. They were headed toward Abul-Khaseeb, which is controlled by the Republican Guard, he said.
″They were escorted by plainclothes security men and two soldiers,″ the spokesman, Bayan Jabr, said in a statement. ″One of the soldiers had a broken camera in his hand. The other security men were also carrying cameras.″
Jabr said his informants were unable to determine the journalists’ nationalities.
The Soviet Union has agreed to seek the journalists’ release, said Sergei Grigoriev, deputy spokesman for President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Sonia Goldenberg, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said the International Red Cross had been contacted about the journalists.
Southern Iraq has been the site of intense fighting between Saddam’s Republican Guard and opposition forces, according to reports from refugees, opposition leaders and Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency.
Reports in Paris indicated the Republican Guard may be holding many of the reporters.
Alain Menargues, a reporter for France Info radio, quoted a Republican Guard spokesman in southern Iraq as saying: ″We are detaining some French journalists, they will be exchanged for prisoners of war.″
A French television correspondent reported Tuesday that he was part of a convoy of French journalists traveling to Basra that turned back Sunday.
″The others were stopped by Republican Guards and are in prison,″ Etienne Leenhardt said on La Cinq television network. ″All are in the same prison ... and not caught in between ... any opposing military forces.″ He did not elaborate or say how he obtained his information.
Associated Press photographer Don Mell said he and another AP photographer also traveled to Iraq but turned back after being told Republican Guardsmen and Iraq’s secret police were ″operating in the area and would shoot us.″
On Tuesday, the U.S. Central Command and news organizations counted 28 journalists missing. That number grew to about three dozen today as reports of additional missing journalists came in from Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Norway.
Journalists based in Saudi Arabia said six colleagues working for U.S. publications were missing. They were identified as Tony O’Brien and Ed Barnes of Life magazine, Jacques Langevin of Sygma, Todd Buchanan of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Chris Morris and Tony Suau of Time magazine.
However, Langevin, O’Brien and Barnes phoned their organizations today to say they were all right. The Inquirer and Time were unsure if their employees were missing.
″We don’t know if he’s being held by Iraqi nationals or he just can’t get phone service out of Iraq,″ Clem Murray, Inquirer photo director, said of Buchanan.
Morris was supposed to contact Time on Tuesday but did not, said spokesman Robert Pondiscio. But he said the magazine was not sure if Suau was missing because he was not due to check in until Thursday.
Two free-lance photographers from Saba Press Photos, who had been on assignment for U.S. News and World Report, were added to the list today. Marcel Saba identified the two as John A. Giordano and Ron Jacques.
The other missing American journalists were Neal Conan of National Public Radio, Chris Hedges of The New York Times, and Greg Lamotte and Tyrone Edwards of CNN.
Two Norwegian journalists also were reported missing today. Government officials said television reporter Odd Karsten Tveit and newspaper photographer Odd R. Andersen had not been heard from since Sunday. They headed for Iraq on Saturday.
Two Brazilians, correspondent William Waack and photo editor Helio Campos Mello, also were reported missing by their newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo.
Three members of a crew from Britain’s Independent Television News were among the missing - Andrew Simmons, Sam Gracey and Michael Gillings.
Other missing journalists included: Philippe Wojazer and Santiago Lyon, photographers with the Reuters news agency; Gabriella Simoni, of Italy’s Canale Cinque television; Giovanni Porzio of the Italian news magazine, Panorama; and Lorenzo Bianchi, of the Resto del Carlino newspaper. Two others were Italians whose names were not known, the U.S. command said.
The French Foreign Ministry identified the missing French journalists as Patrick Bourrat, Bruce Frankel, Francois Dore and Patrick Michel of TF1 television; Gilles Trenel, Herve Brusini, Franck Brisset and Joel Gautier of Antenne-2 television; Loic Madeline and Pascal Richard of La Cinq television; Francoise Chipaux of Le Monde; Francois Came of Liberation; Francois Landon of L’Evenement du Jeudi; and Pierre Thebault of Radio Monte Carlo.