Washington Post reporter killed in Baghdad

New York, October 15, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of a reporter for The Washington Post in Baghdad on Sunday. Salih Saif Aldin, 32, was killed at close range by a single gunshot to the head while photographing fire-damaged houses on a street in Baghdad’s southern neighborhood of Saydiya, The Post reported.

Saif Aldin was on assignment interviewing residents about the sectarian violence raging between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents in the neighborhood, long a center of violence, the newspaper said. The Post reported that a man used Saif Aldin’s cell phone to inform an employee at the paper that the journalist was killed.  

“We condemn this deplorable attack, which is a fresh reminder of why Iraq remains the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, especially Iraqis,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Accounts that Salih Saif Aldin may have been murdered by Iraqi soldiers are alarming, and they demand swift action by the Iraqi government in providing answers and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice.”

Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan told CPJ that it remained murky as to who shot Saif Aldin and why. Some residents suspect that the Iraqi army, some of whose members are loyal to the Mahdi Army, a militia led by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is responsible for the slaying, The Post reported. Iraqi police suspect Sunni gunmen from the Awakening Council, a group consisting of Sunni tribes working alongside U.S. forces, The Post said. 

Saif Aldin, who wrote under the pseudonym Salih Dehema for security purposes, began his journalism career as a reporter for the weekly Al-Iraq al-Yawm in Tikrit, and joined The Post in January 2004 as a stringer, the newspaper said. Saif Aldin has been arrested, beaten, and threatened while carrying out his assignments.  

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, called Saif Aldin a “brave and valuable reporter who contributed much to our coverage of Iraq.” Saif Aldin was known for his tenacity and his willingness to take assignments that put him in harm’s way, The Post reported.

On March 7, cameraman Yussef Sabri of Biladi satellite channel was killed along with several other people by a suicide bomber in Saydiya, and on July 13, New York Times journalist Khalid W. Hassan was shot and killed in the same neighborhood.

In all, at least 119 journalists, including Saif Aldin, and 41 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the press in CPJ’s 26-year history. About 85 percent of media deaths have been Iraqis.