NEW YORK, FEB. 1 -- CBS News reported today that correspondent Bob Simon and his three-member crew, missing for more than a week in the Persian Gulf region, are thought to be in Iraqi hands.
A network official, after interviewing Saudi and military officials in the area and checking the vicinity around the reporting team's abandoned car, believed that "the CBS crew is most likely in the hands of the Iraqis," spokesman Tom Goodman said.
CBS News vice president Don DeCesare has been in Saudi Arabia investigating the crew's disappearance. The four were last heard from Jan. 21.
"It is not known for certain, but the information we now have leads us to believe they are most probably in Kuwait or Iraq," Goodman said.
Simon was with producer Peter Bluff, cameraman Roberto Alvarez and soundman Juan Caldera. Saudi Defense Ministry officials have said their car was found in the ar-Ruqi area, near where the borders of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia meet.
Simon is one of U.S. television's most experienced war correspondents, having reported from Vietnam, Israel, Lebanon and Northern Ireland. He is CBS's chief Middle East correspondent.
CBS said the crew's abandoned car was found at the Kuwaiti border, near the Saudi town of ar-Ruqi.
CBS has had no comment on whether Simon was trying to work outside of the Pentagon's strict censorship guidelines, which insist that crews have military escorts.
"What they were doing was trying to gather the news independently -- trying to find out as well as they could what was happening in that region," DeCesare said on CNN earlier this week from Saudi Arabia.
The network said it plans to send a CBS executive, either producer Larry Doyle or DeCesare, from Jordan into Baghdad "on a humanitarian mission to help locate the crew."
In addition, an Iraqi deserter who CBS earlier said had volunteered that four foreigners had been taken into custody by Iraqi soldiers, did not see the men himself. He had heard about the foreigners but did not see them himself, CBS said.