American journalist murdered in Basra

New York, August 3, 2005—
The Committee to Protect Journalists is shocked and alarmed by the murder of U.S. freelance journalist and author Steven Vincent, whose bullet-riddled body was found today in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Vincent, who had written for a number of U.S. publications and was working on a book, was abducted along with his translator, Ward al-Khal, on Tuesday by armed men driving what initial press reports described variously as a pickup truck or possibly a police car.

Vincent’s body was found this morning, hands tied with plastic wire and a red piece of cloth wrapped around his neck, The New York Times reported. Al-Khal was seriously wounded and was hospitalized today.

In an op-ed article published in The Times on Sunday, Vincent said police in Basra have fallen under the sway of Shiite religious groups, and he strongly criticized British authorities in charge of police training for tolerating such influence.

Vincent’s work also appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and the National Review. A resident of New York City, he had been in Basra for several months working on a book about the Iraqi port city.

“We deplore this reprehensible crime, and we call on Iraqi and coalition authorities to do everything in their power to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said

Vincent is the first U.S. journalist to be murdered in Iraq. Michael Kelly, editor-at-large of the Atlantic Monthly and a columnist with The Washington Post, died in crossfire in April 2003 when a U.S. Army humvee in which he was riding came under attack.

At least 52 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein began in March 2003. Insurgent actions are responsible for the bulk of the deaths. Nineteen of the 52 were murdered. See CPJ’s statistics.

In May, CPJ identified Iraq as one of the world’s five most murderous countries for journalists. Even amid the dangers of war, the CPJ analysis found, journalists were frequently targeted for murder. Read the report.

Another 21 media support staff such as drivers, translators, and security guards have also been killed in the line of duty in Iraq.