Iraqi TV journalist killed in Ramadi clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents

New York, January 25, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the United States military today to investigate the killing of an Iraqi television correspondent during clashes between U.S. forces and Sunni rebels in Ramadi. Mahmoud Za’al, 35, a correspondent for the Iraqi television station Baghdad TV was shot in the insurgent stronghold, 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Baghdad on Tuesday.

Reuters quoted witnesses as saying Za’al was covering an insurgent attack on two U.S.-held buildings when he was wounded in the legs and then killed moments later in a U.S. air strike. The U.S. military denied it had launched an air strike in Ramadi on Tuesday and declined comment on the clashes or Za’al’s death, the agency reported.

Staff at Baghdad TV told CPJ that U.S. soldiers briefly questioned Za’al 15 minutes before he was shot.

“We are saddened by the loss of our colleague Mahmoud Za’al,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on the U.S. military to investigate the circumstances of his death immediately and to publish the findings.”

Staff said several of the station’s correspondents had been detained by U.S. troops in the past few months. Baghdad TV is owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party, the biggest Sunni political group. Za’al had worked for the station for one year.

The U.S. military has failed to fully investigate the killing of 13 journalists by its forces in Iraq since March 2003, according a CPJ analysis.

In another case involving reporting on fighting in Ramadi, Dhia Najim, a freelance cameraman working for Reuters, was shot in the head by a U.S. sniper on November 1, 2004, according to his colleagues.