3 May 2005

Fiji families angry that wrong Iraq body sent

9:28 am on 3 May 2005

The families of two Fijian security guards killed in Iraq are traumatised and angry that one of the bodies sent to Fiji for burial may be that of an American.

The former police officer Aisea Atalifo and the former soldier Timoci Lalaqila died on April 22nd when the helicopter they were travelling in, was shot down by an insurgent missile attack north of Baghdad.

Two bodies were sent to Fiji last weekend but now the burials have been put on hold because United States authorities say one of the bodies may be that of one of the six Americans killed in same attack.

A forensic expert will arrive in Fiji today to carry out DNA tests but the results aren't likely to be available till the end of next week.

The US ambassador in Suva, David Lyon, says he regrets the mistake and has apologised to the families of the two on behalf of the American government.

Mr Lyon the right body will be sent to Fiji as soon as a conclusive identification has been made.

Mr Atalifo was to have been buried at his home in Savusavu today while Mr Lalaqila was to be buried in Tailevu on Friday.

The two bodies were accompanied to Fiji by Mr Lalaqila's brother, Semi, who is also a security guard in Iraq.