Shawkat, editor of the weekly Bilah Ittijah (Without Direction), was shot and killed by one or more gunmen at his office in Mosul. According to press reports, a gunman and an accomplice followed the journalist to the roof of his office in the afternoon. One local journalist told CPJ that Shawkat was on the roof making a call from his satellite telephone when he was shot.
CPJ continues to investigate the case for more details, but based on current research, CPJ believes that Shawkat was killed for his work as a journalist.
Sources report that Shawkat’s writing often criticized Islamists, Islam, the former regime of Saddam Hussein, and the U.S-led occupation. According to one local journalist who has followed the case, Shawkat had recently written a piece that questioned whether or not Arabic was the language of heaven.
Shawkat’s daughter, Roaa, who also works at Bilah Ittijah, told CPJ in an e-mail that her father had received several verbal threats warning him to close the newspaper, as well as one written threat a few months before his death. The Washington Post reported on November 16 that Shawkat’s son, Sindbad, said that the written threat accused Shawkat of being a Zionist guilty of colluding with infidels. The Post reported that Sindbad had warned his father not to write about foreign Islamist extremists in Iraq.
According to the local journalist, Shawkat was confronted in his office a few days prior to his shooting by several men with long beards-sometimes a sign of religiosity in Muslim countries. The journalist told CPJ that a man who has an office in the same building as the paper told investigators that he saw the same bearded men fleeing the scene after Shawkat was shot. The journalist said that both local and regional police were investigating the case, but that the regional police has ended its investigations and closed the case file for lack of evidence. The journalist said that an employee of the paper, whom Roaa also mentioned in her e-mail to CPJ as being a suspect in the case, was released by police, also for lack of evidence.