An Australian cameraman was killed in a suicide bombing and three British journalists were missing yesterday as the war in Iraq suddenly turned deadly for those trying to cover it.
Two Newsweek staffers also came under attack by Iraqis but managed to escape after going into hiding.
The missing journalists, from the British network ITN, came under heavy gunfire while driving near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, according to a cameraman for the network who was caught in the attack.
Paul Moran, 39, a freelance cameraman working for the Australian Broadcasting Corp., was among five people killed by a car bomb at a checkpoint near the northern Iraq camp of a militant group linked to al Qaeda. Reporter Eric Campbell suffered minor shrapnel injuries.
A red Toyota Land Cruiser drew up beside them and exploded. Journalists had gone there to interview refugees after the mountainous area was struck 15 hours earlier by U.S. cruise missiles.
Washington Post correspondent Karl Vick, who was driving in the vicinity, as were several journalists for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, said he saw cameraman Moran filming the scene shortly before the explosion, which shattered the left rear window of Vick's car.
According to Australian Broadcasting, security officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said they believe that the militant group Ansar al-Islam was responsible for the bombing. "We consider it a terrorist operation by Ansar," a PUK official was quoted as saying. "It seems the car belonged to a member of Ansar."
Time magazine's Michael Ware told CNN that "it appeared to be some kind of retaliatory event" and that journalists in the area have been specifically targeted.
A Newsweek reporter, Scott Johnson, and photographer Luc Delahaye are safe after coming under Iraqi gunfire. Newsweek spokesman Ken Weine said that Johnson and Delahaye hid separately, for several hours, after their caravan was attacked, and were later picked up by U.S. forces. He would not identify where the attack took place or which military unit rescued the staffers.
The fate of the three ITN staffers -- reporter Terry Lloyd, cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Othman -- remains unknown, a network spokeswoman said by phone from London. ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier, who was driving with Lloyd, gave his network this dramatic account:
"I could see in the [rear-view] mirror that there was actually two Iraqi vehicles following us. . . . And they overtook us and they were doing signs and saying thumbs up. . . .
"But that same moment, very heavy gunfire started towards my car from the right hand side and I had to duck down straight away -- windows exploding, everything exploding inside the car, a split second and I looked to the right and the right door where my correspondent was and it was open and he was not there anymore. So I really sincerely hope he managed to jump out of the car.
"I steered the car, went down into the ditch about 200 meters further. They kept firing on us and then it took [caught] fire and I jumped out and went in a ditch and then the car blew up completely. . . . The Iraqi car was blown up as well, there was some shouting and screaming, I think there were some wounded people."
Also yesterday, CNN's Nic Robertson and three colleagues made it to Jordan after Iraqi authorities expelled them from Baghdad. Robertson said in an interview from Amman that the head of the Iraqi press center had screamed at them, "You are worse than the American administration! Get out of Iraq now!"
The reasons the officials gave for the expulsion were "complete and utter nonsense," Robertson said. "It's clear to me they're under immense pressure. Part of it is a backlash against CNN because they see us as portraying them in this conflict as losing. It's their job to tell the Iraqi people that these images aren't true, that there are not really Iraqi soldiers surrendering."