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Reuters seeks Pentagon probe on journalist's death
Yahoo News/Reuters
By Alastair Macdonald
August 27, 2006

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Reuters news agency urged the U.S. military on Sunday to investigate the killing of one of its journalists by American troops in Baghdad a year ago.

An independent inquiry commissioned by Reuters concluded that the soldiers' shooting of television soundman Waleed Khaled on August 28 last year appeared "unlawful."

But the Pentagon has failed to respond to requests to review the local commander's ruling, which said the firing of shots at the car was "appropriate."

In April, Reuters gave the U.S. Defense Department the report, which found the soldiers' own evidence did not support the commander's conclusion.

The report also criticized the military for "losing" vital video footage of the incident shot by the Reuters cameraman who was Khaled's passenger. He was wounded and then arrested by troops.

"The Defense Department has ignored the independent report which concluded that U.S. soldiers breached their rules of engagement and the shooting of Waleed was prima facie unlawful," said Michael Lawrence, Reuters Managing Editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

"Reuters calls on the U.S. government to conduct a full and objective investigation into the death of Waleed Khaled."


The report by a former British military investigator working for The Risk Advisory Group (TRAG) said soldiers had fired from a rooftop at Khaled, 33, and cameraman Haider Kadhem, 23, as they sat in a stationary car while Kadhem filmed the aftermath of an attack on a police patrol through the windshield.

They went on firing as Khaled, to show he posed no threat, reversed the car. Witnesses and ballistic evidence indicated that some of the 18 bullets to hit the car had been fired after it came to a halt.

The soldiers said they thought Kadhem's palm-held camera might have been a grenade launcher, but were not sure.

TRAG said that, at that distance, the soldiers could not have seen what Kadhem was holding, and so could not justify opening fire under U.S. rules of engagement: "(It) was prima facie unlawful."

On May 11, Thomas Gimble, the U.S. Defense Department's acting inspector general, said the matter had been referred to commanders in the field. Since then, Reuters has been unable to establish who, if anyone, is handling any further work on the issue.

A month ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked David Laufman, the government's nominee for inspector general, if he would ensure a review of the case. Laufman has not responded.


Khaled, a former Iraqi army major, left a wife and daughter, and a son born two months after his death.

His father, Khaled Mohammed, said: "All we want is for the investigation to continue and for the soldiers who killed Waleed to be punished."

The anniversary falls at a time when U.S. commanders in Iraq have been trying to crack down on misconduct that they recognize risks turning Iraqis against Americans. Four murder inquiries are under way against U.S. troops in Iraq at the moment.

Troops fearful of attack admitted killing an average of one innocent Iraqi a day last year. Officers say new orders have cut that to one a week.

Reuters has highlighted shortcomings in inquiries that absolved U.S. troops from blame in 2003 after they killed two Reuters cameramen in Iraq, Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk and Palestinian Mazen Dana.

It is still seeking information on the death of Dhia Najim, an Iraqi cameraman working for Reuters, who was shot dead in 2004, probably by a U.S. sniper.

Over 100 journalists have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

Original Text