Iraq: US Troops Shoot 2nd Palestinian Journalist
US Troops Shoot Dead Second Palestinian Journalist in Iraq
US occupation troops in Iraq shot dead an award-winning Reuters Palestinian cameraman Mazen Da’na, 43, while he was filming on Sunday near a prison run by American soldiers on the outskirts of Baghdad, to be the second Palestinian journalist killed by American forces in the Iraqi capital city.
Da’na’s death brings to 17 the number of journalists or their assistants who have died in Iraq since the US-led coalition invaded the eastern Arab country on March 20. Two others have been missing since the first days of the invasion.
Da’na is the second Reuters cameraman, and the second Palestinian journalist, to be killed ever since.
On April 8, Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian based in Warsaw, died when a US tank fired a shell at the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel, the base for many foreign media in Baghdad.
Palestinian Tareq Ayyoub of Al-Jazeera satellite TV station was killed in Baghdad on April 8 when the station’s offices were targeted by a US rocket.
A Reuters staffer told AP on condition of anonymity that the videotape in Dana’s camera showed two US tanks coming toward him. Two shots, apparently from the tanks, rang out and Da’na fell to the ground. A US helicopter took him away for treatment.
American soldiers saw Da’na from a distance and mistook him for an Iraqi guerrilla, so they opened fire, the US military official said on condition of anonymity. When the soldiers came closer, they realized Da’na was a journalist, the official told AP.
"Mazen was one of Reuters' finest cameramen and we are devastated by his loss. He was a brave and an award winning journalist who had worked in many of the world's hotspots,” Stephen Jukes, Reuters’ global head of news, said in a statement.
"He was committed to covering the story wherever it was and he was an inspiration to friends and colleagues at Reuters and throughout the industry.”
Eyewitnesses said US soldiers on an American tank shot at Mazen Da’na, 43, as he filmed outside Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad, which had earlier come under a mortar attack, Reuters reported.
Da’na’s last pictures show a US tank driving toward him outside the prison walls. Several shots ring out from the tank, and Da’na’s camera falls to the ground, Reuters said.
The US military acknowledged on Sunday that its troops had “engaged” a Reuters cameraman, saying they had thought his camera was a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
"Army soldiers engaged an individual they thought was aiming an RPG at them. It turned out to be a Reuters cameraman,” Navy Captain Frank Thorp, a spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reuters in Washington.
Journalists had gone to the prison after the US military said a mortar bomb attack there a day before had killed six Iraqis and wounded 59 others. The death toll rose to nine on Sunday.
Recounting the moments before the shooting, Reuters soundman Nael al-Shyoukhi, who was working with Da’na, said he had asked a US soldier near the prison if they could speak to an officer and was told they could not.
"They saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission,” Shyoukhi said. The incident happened in the afternoon in daylight.
The soldier agreed to their request to film an overview of the prison from a bridge nearby.
"After we filmed we went into the car and prepared to go when a convoy led by a tank arrived and Mazen stepped out of the car to film. I followed him and Mazen walked three to four meters (yards). We were noted and seen clearly,” Shyoukhi said.
"A soldier on the tank shot at us. I lay on the ground. I heard Mazen and I saw him scream and touching his chest.”
"I cried at the soldier, telling him you killed a journalist. They shouted at me and asked me to step back and I said 'I will step back, but please help, please help and stop the bleed.”
"They tried to help him but Mazen bled heavily. Mazen took a last breath and died before my eyes."
Da’na had worked for Reuters for a decade, mostly in the Israeli reoccupied West Bank city of Hebron.
Paul Holmes, former Reuters bureau chief in Jerusalem, recalled a towering, chain-smoking bear of a man with a ruddy complexion and expansive heart.
"The amazing thing about him was he was like the king of Hebron. Every journalist in the city looked up to him and any journalist who covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will know and love Mazen,” he said.
Reuters Chief Executive Tom Glocer said he hoped there would be "the fullest and most comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy.”
Married with four young children, Da’na was one of the company’s most experienced conflict journalists and had worked in Baghdad before, shortly after US troops entered the city.
He was awarded an International Press Freedom Award in 2001 by the Committee to Protect Journalists for his work in Hebron where he was wounded and beaten many times.