Media covers US war dead's return after 18-year ban

Mon Apr 6, 2009 12:56am EDT

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DOVER, Delaware, April 5 (Reuters) - The media was permitted on Sunday to cover the arrival of a U.S. soldier's coffin at the Pentagon's main mortuary in Delaware late for the first time in 18 years.

A flag-draped coffin bearing the remains of Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers arrived at Dover Air Force Base. Myers, 30, of Hopewell, Virginia, was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday by an improvised explosive device, the Pentagon said.

The administration of President Barack Obama relaxed a Pentagon ban on media coverage of returning U.S. war dead in February, giving grieving families the choice of whether to allow cameras at the solemn arrival ceremony.

The ban was imposed in 1991 during the first Gulf War with some exceptions, including the return of Navy seamen killed during the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000 that killed 17.

Former President George W. Bush imposed a stricter ban during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, sparking criticism that the federal government was hiding the human cost of its military operations.

The Pentagon says that at least 4,262 U.S. service members have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, while another 673 have been killed in Afghanistan since U.S. forces went there to oust the Taliban in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Philip Barbara)




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