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U.S. forces 'killed UK reporter'

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OXFORD, England (CNN) -- A coroner ruled on Friday that a British journalist who died in Iraq at the start of the war was unlawfully killed by American forces.

Terry Lloyd, a correspondent with the British TV network ITN , was killed outside Basra in southern Iraq in March 2003.

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he'll be writing the director of public prosecutions to seek to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said.

The U.S. Department of Defense said its forces had followed proper rules of engagement.

Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman also was killed in the ITN crew, and cameraman Fred Nerac remains missing. ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier survived.

Lloyd -- who was aged 50 -- was shot in the back during U.S. and Iraqi crossfire and was apparently shot by U.S. forces when he was taken away in a minibus for treatment.

"There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces. There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire upon the minibus," Walker said.

There were statements from U.S. military officers about the incident, but the coroner said "it was and is essential they attend and it is not satisfactory to have their statements read in court."

In Washington, the Defense Department said a U.S. investigation "determined that U.S. forces followed the applicable rules of engagement."

"The Department of Defense has never deliberately targeted noncombatants, including journalists," the Pentagon said. "We have always gone to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage."

Lloyd's family members denounced the action and want justice.

Chelsey Lloyd, Terry Lloyd's daughter, urged after the inquest that the soldiers and their commanding officers be brought to justice.

"They did not come to this inquest to explain their actions. Let them now do so in our criminal courts where they are guaranteed to get a fair trial."

She said the "value of the inquest has been demonstrated."

"Until now we were unaware that my father was able to stand and walk to a makeshift ambulance after being shot once by an Iraqi bullet. The man who stopped to help my father was an ordinary Iraqi whose intentions were to take him and other wounded to a nearby hospital.

"After helping my father into his minibus the evidence shows that the vehicle whilst driving the wounded away was fired on by U.S. forces, and that one bullet entered my father's head after passing through the vehicle, and it was this American bullet which killed him."

A statement read by an attorney for Lloyd's widow, Lynn, said the court established that the "circumstances of his death from an American bullet whilst being ferried to hospital is a very serious war crime" and that the Marines should now stand trial.

"The evidence of how Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed has shown that this was not, I wish to stress, a friendly fire blue on blue incident or a crossfire incident. It was a despicable, deliberate, vengeful act, particularly as it came many minutes after the end of the initial exchanges in which Mr. Lloyd had been hit by an Iraqi bullet."

Her statement said "U.S. forces appeared to have allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger-happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians traveling on a highway, both Iraqi and European."

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report

Terry Lloyd was a journalist with the UK's ITN network.

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