Beirut, June 20, 2017–French cameraman Stephan Villeneuve and Iraqi fixer Bakhtiyar Haddad were killed in an explosion that also injured French journalists Veronique Robert and Samuel Forey as they covered Iraqi soldiers’ efforts to retake control of the old city of Mosul yesterday, according to news reports and the French journalists’ employers.
The journalists were embedded with elite Iraqi soldiers, traveling on foot through Mosul when an improvised explosive device exploded, news reports said. Alex Kay Potter–a nurse who was on the initial treatment team and who acts as director of communications for Global Response Management (GRM), an international nonprofit that provides medical care on the frontlines of conflicts–told CPJ that Haddad, Forey, Villeneuve, and Robert were initially treated at a trauma stabilization point run by GRM and Iraqi Special Operations Forces. Villeneuve, Robert, and Forey were then transported to a nearby military medical facility for further treatment, Potter said. Kurdish broadcasters Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 reported that Haddad died of his injuries soon after the explosion.
Villeneuve, Robert, and Forey were subsequently flown to a medical facility in Al-Qayyara, some 76 kilometers (47 miles) south of Mosul, and then to Baghdad for further treatment. Villeneuve died of his injuries hours later, according to news reports and the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights, a northern Iraqi press freedom group. Forey’s injuries were less serious, Le Figaro reported.
“The deaths of Stephan Villeneuve and Bakhtiyar Haddad and the injuries sustained by Veronique Robert and Samuel Forey testify to the enormous risks journalists take to bring the news from Iraq,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Geneva. “Iraqi and foreign journalists daily show immense courage and determination to bring vital information to the world.”
Haddad had worked as a translator and fixer for French journalists in northern Iraq for more than a decade. Villeneuve and Robert were on assignment for the production company #5bisProduction, filming a report for the public broadcaster France 2. Forey is a freelance journalist who has regularly contributed to Le Figaro and the cultural magazine Télérama, among other media outlets.
Haddad’s left hand was hit by a sniper’s bullet while he reported from the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on June 23, 2016, according to Libération and a post Villeneuve, an experienced conflict journalist himself, wrote on Facebook. U.S. soldiers detained Haddad alongside French photographer Corentin Fleury on suspicion of collaborating with Iraqi guerrillas on November 8, 2004, according to Libération. He was released on December 5, Libération reported.
More journalists have been killed in Iraq than in any other country since CPJ first began keeping records in 1992.