Controversial TV war questioned after shock images

LONDON - The nature of television's role in covering the war in Iraq is again being called into question after a mother recognised her wounded son on BBC News before the government was able to inform her he had been injured.

Royal Marine Commando Glen McCoy was seen burning on TV after a raid on Iraqi positions around the town of Faw. He had been shot and hit by an exploding gas canister and was seen running in flames from a building.

The news footage was seen at home in the UK by his mother Diane McCoy, who said: "We saw it on the television and I immediately knew it was him. I didn't know what to do."

She added: "My daughter Kerry, rang me after it had been shown again and said 'that was Glen, mum'. Then we got a call from someone in the military."

The controversy is likely to intensify following more images last night of captured Americans in Iraqi television. This time it was pictures of downed American Apache helicopter pilots being paraded.

It follows the highly controversial incident at the weekend where US prisoners of war were shown extensively by the Arab satellite news station Al Jazeera. The US asked Western news networks not to broadcast the images but, after holding off for more than a day, US networks yesterday went ahead and ran images of the captured troops.

CNN was first to run the images although its use of what it called "brief audio and video footage" fell along way short of the continual broadcasting of the images on some Arab networks.

In the UK, the images of US POWs were broadcast first by Sky News and followed by BBC News 24, while ITN used only still images as had some other US networks. However, the BBC only broadcast the images in the UK and did not use them on BBC World its international channel, which can be seen in the US.

The shock felt by the family of Royal Marine Glen McCoy has been echoed in the US by relatives of dead and captured US personnel who have seen images of their loved ones on TV.

The question of what to show and what not to show is likely to become increasingly into focus in the coming days as the nature of the war swiftly changes.

The US has promised that it would bypass towns and head for Baghdad, but stiff resistance is forcing the coalition to think again.

Today, British commanders said that the city of Basra had become a "legitimate military target", making an entry into the city to finish off Iraqi opposition, in highly dangerous and costly urban warfare, likely as allied troops fight house to house.

British military spokesman group Captain Al Lockwood said: "We are meeting resistance from irregulars, members of the Fedayeen, who are extremely loyal to Saddam Hussein's regime."

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