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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

NBC shows Iraqi vid of Dying GI

Piestewa Family: Video of Injured Soldiers Sparking Anxiety, Hurt
By Ananda Shorey Associated Press Writer
Published: Dec 31, 2003

PHOENIX (AP) - The family of a soldier killed in Iraq had harsh words Wednesday for the network that aired footage of her, bloody and bruised, in an Iraqi hospital bed shortly before she died.

The footage, aired Tuesday on "NBC Nightly News," shows Lori Piestewa and Jessica Lynch - Army privates and best friends - at a hospital where they were taken after a March 23 ambush. Lynch was rescued April 1.

Airing the tape - which NBC said was filmed but never broadcast by Iraqi television - created a sense of fear, anxiety and hurt, Piestewa's family said in a statement.

"This terrorism was not from any foreign group wishing to harm the United States, but from our own people wanting to make a quick buck off the misfortune of two beautiful young women," the family said.

Wayland Piestewa, brother of the fallen soldier, released the statement but declined to answer questions.

NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin said the network contacted the Pentagon so the families of Piestewa and Lynch would know about the footage.

"Undeniably there's news value in it," Levin said, because it bolsters Lynch's statements that she did not remember what happened after her unit was attacked, and because it shows Piestewa was alive for a time after the ambush.

"It gave some clarity to the situation," Levin said.

On the tape, Piestewa's face is swollen, bloody and bruised and her head loosely bandaged. Her lip is shown curling back in an apparent grimace.

Lynch, 20, is also shown bandaged, her lip cut. Neither appears awake or alert.

The footage was somewhat comforting for fellow former POW Spc. Shoshana Johnson, who verified Lynch's and Piestewa's identities for NBC.

"It was a little shocking to see Lori, but it also gave me a little peace to know that they tried, they did their best for her," Johnson, 30, told the network. "I mean, it was obvious they tried to bandage her up and give her medical care."

Iraqi doctors have previously said the women were brought to a private clinic after the ambush, and that Piestewa, a 23-year-old mother of two from Tuba City, Ariz., died half an hour later of severe head injuries.

Although they disagreed with NBC's decision to air the footage, Piestewa's family said some people definitely should see it.

"Let us make sure that both President Bush, his father and each of his aides and advisers get a copy of Lori dying in agony so that they realize, from the comfort of their homes, that war should be the last option," the family said in the statement.

AP-ES-12-31-03 2330EST

Copyright 2003 Associated Press

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