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Iraqi TV station says U.S. troops killed cameraman

Aseel Kami and Khalid al-Ansary

Thu May 22, 2008

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi television station accused U.S. troops on Thursday of shooting dead one of its cameramen as he walked to his Baghdad home.

The body of a second journalist, Haidar Hashim al-Husseini, a reporter for al-Sharq newspaper, was found dumped in a field with nine other corpses in Diyala province, police and colleagues said.

A spokeswoman for the Afaq television channel said cameraman Wisam Ali Ouda was shot dead by U.S. soldiers in eastern Baghdad's Obaidi district at around 5pm on Wednesday.

"We confirm one of our employees was killed by an American sniper," said Bushra Abdul-Amir, head of public relations at the station. She added that witnesses had given testimony to the station's managers.

Hadi Jalu, deputy director of Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, said he had also interviewed witnesses on the scene who had corroborated this, without saying how many. "They all said an American soldier killed him," he said.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Stover, said no civilians had been killed during military operations in Obaidi on Wednesday, which starting in the morning and continued into the night.

"All extremists were ... either committing a violent act or posed a threat to commit a violent act," he said.

Colleagues of Ouda, 32, said he was buried in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday.

"Wisam was one of our most prominent cameramen. We loudly condemn the killing of journalists," the station's director, Mohammed Thiab al-Baidhani, told Reuters.

In a separate incident north of Baghdad, al-Sharq reporter Husseini was kidnapped outside his home in Diyala on Tuesday, said the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Abdul-Rasool Ziyara.

Ziyara said police found his body, along with nine others, in a field on Wednesday. His hands and feet were bound and he had a gunshot wound to the head. There were signs of torture.

"I'm sure he was killed because he was Shi'ite," Ziyara said.

Iraq, which witnessed significant growth in the media after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work, according to a New York-based journalism watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Iraqi journalists have been targeted because of their work or caught up in the cross-fire of Iraq's many-sided conflict.

Early this month, gunmen shot dead Sarwa Abdul-Wahab, a female Iraqi reporter, in Iraq's northern city of Mosul.

About 130 journalists, Iraqi and foreign, have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

Most television stations and newspapers in Iraq are owned by political and religious sects or ethnic groups. Militants often target journalists whom they perceive to be on the side of their enemies in a particular conflict.

(Additional reporting and writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by David Fogarty)

:: Article nr. 44264 sent on 23-may-2008 00:37 ECT


Link: uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKKAM22370320080522

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