3 May 2005

US ambassador to Fiji apologises for Iraq body mix-up

9:29 am on 3 May 2005

The US embassy in Fiji says it deeply regrets the wrong body was returned from Iraq to Fiji for burial, after the deaths of two security officers.

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

Two badly burned bodies arrived in Fiji at the weekend for burial, but a phonecall from the US embassy in Kuwait informed the US embassy in Fiji that an American's body had mistakenly been sent to Fiji.

The US ambassador to Fiji, David Lyon, says he believes the body of one of the Fijian men had been mistakenly sent to Delaware in the US.

David Lyon says he apologises for the embarrassing mistake.

"The company which originally hired the two men, Global Risk, has been very helpful in all this. One of their men accompanied the remains back to Fiji. They have been in touch with the families here. At the embassy we feel very very badly I think the whole US government does, by a mistake of this nature compounding the grief of families who want to come to closure, and pay the respect of their husbands, sons and fathers in Fiji."

Ambassador Lyon says a DNA expert will arrive today to take further samples of the bodies in Fiji for analysis in the US.