A Reuters television sound technician was killed and a cameraman was injured Sunday while trying to cover a Baghdad gunbattle involving insurgents and U.S. troops. Police said the men were fired on by American forces.
Waleed Khaled, 35, was killed and cameraman Haider Khadem was wounded while driving to the scene of the clash in the western Baghdad district of Adil, said Alastair MacDonald, Reuters’ chief correspondent in Baghdad.
The two appear to have been targeted by a sniper, and Khadem was detained by U.S. troops after being shot, MacDonald said.
Maj. Mousa Abdul Karim of the Ghazaliyah police said U.S. soldiers opened fire on the two men near Umm al-Qura mosque.
A statement from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Baghdad said troops responded to an attack on an Iraqi police convoy that killed and wounded several officers.
“One civilian was killed and another was wounded by small-arms fire during the attack,” the statement said. “After discovering an abandoned car with explosives material, weapons and a cell phone, units began searching the area for the terror suspects who were believed to have fled on foot.”
Task Force Baghdad spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone said U.S. troops evacuated one wounded civilian from the scene, and the incident was being investigated.
MacDonald said Reuters had not heard from Khadem since he was detained and could not find out where he was being held.
At a news conference, a Reuters correspondent asked U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad about the incident, saying U.S. soldiers shot the men.
Khalilzad responded that military operations were not an exact science and “sometimes mistakes are made.”
“If they are made, we investigate and then report on our findings,” he said.
In a story on the Reuters Web site, Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said, “This tragic incident must immediately be investigated thoroughly and impartially.
“A brave journalist has lost his life and another has been wounded and detained when their only actions were as professionals reporting the facts and images of the war. We are deeply saddened at this loss.”
Waleed is survived by a 7-year-old daughter and his wife, who is four months pregnant.
Schlesinger later told The Associated Press in London that Khadem was still in custody more than 12 hours after the incident.
“We would like to have him out to talk to him and have him cared for,” he said.
Rise in car bombings
Iraqis complain frequently about U.S. troops firing at civilians near checkpoints and other locations, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he had raised the issue with American authorities.
U.S. officials blame the problem on a rise in suicide car bombings that have killed dozens of American troops in recent months.
In March, U.S. troops mistakenly killed an Italian intelligence agent and wounded an Italian journalist driving to the Baghdad airport after the journalist was freed following a month as a hostage of insurgents.
U.S. forces killed two Reuters cameramen during the invasion of Baghdad in 2003, when a tank shell was fired at the Palestine Hotel where they were based.
A third Reuters cameraman was killed by a sniper in Ramadi in November in unexplained circumstances. The agency said it was seeking an explanation from the U.S. command.
At least 52 journalists and 21 media support workers have been killed as a result of hostile action while covering the war in Iraq since March 2003, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.