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U.S. TROOPS KILL REUTERS SOUNDMAN; INJURED CAMERAMAN DETAINED

U.S. military authorities in Iraq are under pressure from international press freedom groups to answer questions about the killing of journalists by American troops, following the shooting of two Reuters employees in Baghdad on 28 August 2005.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) are calling for an investigation into the death of Waleed Khaled, a Reuters Television soundman shot and killed by U.S. forces.

They are also demanding the immediate release of cameraman Haidar Kadhem, a colleague of Khaled's who was injured in the shooting and is being detained by U.S. troops.

Khaled, 35, was shot several times in the face and chest as he drove with Kadhem to investigate the killing of two Iraqi policemen in Baghdad's Hay al-Adil district, reports RSF.

Kadhem, the only known eyewitness to the shooting, was injured in the back and detained by U.S. troops. He told other journalists arriving at the scene that he saw an American sniper on the roof of a shopping centre after hearing shots ring out.

A U.S. military spokesman says an "open investigation into the events" is being conducted and that Kadhem is being detained "due to inconsistencies in his story" that "warrant further questioning."

According to RSF, Khaled was the 67th journalist killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 - more than the number of journalists killed (63) during the 20-year Vietnam war.

His death followed the 24 August killing of Rafed Al Rabaji, a freelance contributor for the Iraqi television station Al Irakiya. Al Rabaji was killed when gunmen at a pro-Saddam Hussein demonstration in Diyala fired shots in his direction, says RSF.

IFJ has called for a UN inquiry into the killings of journalists by U.S. troops, saying the Pentagon maintains a "wall of silence" on the deaths of 18 journalists and media staff killed by American forces since March 2003.

Meanwhile, CPJ reports that several Iraqi journalists continue to be detained without explanation by U.S. forces, including Ali Mashhadani, a 36-year-old freelance cameraman and photographer working with Reuters who has been held incommunicado since 8 August. He has not been allowed to see his family or his lawyers. The U.S. command has refused to make any comment about his arrest.

In January 2004, three Iraqis working for Reuters said they were subjected to sexual abuse and humiliation when U.S. troops arrested them near Fallujah while they were covering the downing of a U.S. helicopter. A military investigation absolved the soldiers of any wrongdoing, despite the fact that investigators did not interview any of the victims.

Visit:
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Iraq29aug05na.html
- RSF : http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14819
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=3340&Language=EN
- CPJ Report on Iraq: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/mideast04/iraq.html
- Human Rights Watch Concerned about U.S. Checkpoints: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/06/17/usint11146.htm
- Reuters Mourns Colleague's Death: http://www.newssafety.com/stories/reuters/iraq29.htm
- Journalists in Danger: Facts on Iraq: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2003/gulf03/iraq_stats.html
- PBS Frontline/World Documentary on Reporting in Iraq: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iraq401/index.html

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