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Simon, Crew Held in Iraq, CBS Confirms

From Associated Press

CBS News reporter Bob Simon and three crew members who disappeared in the northern Saudi desert last month are being held in Baghdad, the president of CBS News said Friday.

Eric Ober confirmed a Cable News Network report that the journalists have been held for two weeks in the Iraqi capital. CBS spokesman Tom Goodman said efforts are under way to secure their release.

The crew was reported missing at the Kuwaiti border Jan. 21, four days after the Gulf War started. CNN quoted what it called reliable sources as saying the fate of the crew will be decided by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

“We hope that the Iraqis recognize the four are journalists and not combatants and were simply there to cover a story,” Goodman said.

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The four were picked up by an Iraqi military jeep patrol in a remote part of the Kuwait border, CNN reported.

They “are still being investigated by the Iraqi intelligence service to determine the full circumstances of their capture,” CNN correspondent Peter Arnett said.

“Apparently, there are three categories they can fall under: innocents who could be released, prisoners of war or spies,” Arnett said. “I am told that . . . Hussein will personally determine the outcome of the cases.”

Last year, an Iranian-born journalist, Farzad Bazoft, was hanged in Baghdad after being found guilty of spying while on assignment in Iraq for a London-based newspaper.

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Arnett said he was told the crew is being held near the former residence of the U.S. Embassy Marine guards.

Three of the crew were wearing military uniforms to pass by Saudi checkpoints in the guise of American soldiers, Arnett said he was told.

“They said they wanted to get closer to Kuwait than was permitted at the time,” the crew told investigators, according to Arnett.

The missing crew members are producer Peter Bluff, cameraman Roberto Alvarez and soundman Juan Caldera.

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