Afghan fighters assault Boston Globe translator in view of U.S. Special Forces

New York, April 11, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by yesterday’s assault on Ebadullah Ebadi, a translator and assistant working for the Boston Globe.

Ebadi was attacked by Afghan fighters working with U.S. Special Forces in Soroobi, a district roughly 45 miles (70 kilometers) east of the capital, Kabul. The assault occurred within view of the U.S. soldiers, who did not intervene to stop the beating, according to an account published in today’s edition of the Globe.

The incident occurred when Ebadi and Globe reporter Indira A. R. Lakshmanan approached a convoy of about 10 vehicles carrying U.S. Special Forces and Afghan fighters loyal to Jalalabad commander Hazrat Ali. A group of the Afghan fighters blocked the pair from continuing toward the American soldiers.

According to the Globe report, “as an interview request was being delivered to the American soldiers, one of the U.S. forces gestured toward a young Afghan soldier, who sprinted toward the visitors and roughly shoved the Globe‘s translator. The soldier unlatched the safety on his rifle while other soldiers began punching the Globe translator in the face and kicking him. Another soldier slapped Ebadi, knocking off his glasses, while the first soldier beat him with his rifle. The incident ended when another soldier stopped the beating.”

A U.S. Special Forces officer, who identified himself only as Steve, approached the two journalists immediately after the incident and “said the soldiers were reluctant to give interviews,” the Globe reported. He claimed not to know about the assault on Ebadi.

An Afghan commander, who identified himself as Hazrat Ali’s deputy, apologized on behalf of the soldier who was the principal assailant and offered to beat him publicly. When Ebadi refused the offer, the deputy commander admonished his troops for “beating a guest, instead of just preventing him from reaching the Americans,” according to the Globe.

“We call on U.S. and Afghan authorities to order an immediate investigation into the circumstances of this assault,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Afghan fighters involved in the attack should be disciplined, and any evidence that U.S. soldiers either ordered or condoned violence against the press should be treated extremely seriously.”

This is the third case documented by CPJ in which journalists have been forcibly prevented from covering U.S. military activities in Afghanistan. On December 20, 2001, Afghan tribal fighters harassed and detained three photojournalists, apparently at the behest of U.S. Special Forces soldiers who did not want to be photographed.

On February 10, Washington Post reporter Doug Struck was threatened at gunpoint by U.S. soldiers and barred from the site of a U.S. missile strike in eastern Afghanistan that may have killed a group of civilians.