Mazen Dana

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Dana, a veteran conflict cameraman for Reuters news agency, was killed
by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank near the capital, Baghdad. Dana
was struck in the torso while filming near Abu Ghraib Prison, outside
Baghdad, in the afternoon. He had been reporting with a colleague near
the prison after a mortar attack had killed six Iraqis there the
previous night. The soldier in the tank who fired on Dana did so
without warning, while the journalist filmed the vehicle approaching
him from about 55 yards (50 meters).

U.S. military officials said the soldier who opened fire mistook Dana’s
camera for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. There was no
fighting taking place in the area, and the journalists had been
operating in the vicinity of the prison with the knowledge of U.S.
troops near the prison gates.

In an August 18 letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,
CPJ protested the shooting, stating that it raised “serious questions
about the conduct of U.S. troops and their rules of engagement.”

On September 22, the U.S. military announced that it had concluded its
investigation into the incident. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command
(Centcom) in Iraq told CPJ that while Dana’s killing was “regrettable,”
the soldier “acted within the rules of engagement.” No further details
were provided. The results of the investigation have not been made
public. A Centcom spokesman said other details of the report are

Dana’s soundman, Nael Shyioukhi, who witnessed the incident, told CPJ
that he and Dana arrived at the prison with their driver, Munzer Abbas,
in the late afternoon. According to Shyioukhi, several journalists were
also in the area. Shyioukhi said that after a short while Dana
suggested that they approach the prison gates to begin filming. At one
point, Dana identified himself to a U.S. soldier as a journalist from
Reuters and asked if a spokesman was available to comment on camera
about the attack the previous night. The soldier replied that he could
not comment, and no spokesmen were available. Dana then asked the
soldier if he and Shyioukhi could film the prison from a nearby bridge.
According to Shyioukhi, the soldier politely told them they were
welcome to do so.

After filming from the bridge, located between 330 and 660 yards (300
and 600 meters) from the prison, Dana and Shyioukhi, who were wearing
jeans and T-shirts, packed their equipment in their car and began to
head off for the Reuters office. As they approached the main road to
the prison, Dana noticed a convoy of tanks approaching and told Abbas
to stop so he could film it. According to Shyioukhi, he and Dana were
not apprehensive because the area was calm, and it was apparent that
U.S. troops were in complete control. Neither Dana nor Shyioukhi were
wearing flak jackets, and their car was not marked press.

Dana exited the car and set up his blue, canvas-encased camera with a
white microphone facing the tanks while Shyioukhi lit a cigarette.
Shyioukhi said Dana filmed for about 10 seconds, when suddenly, without
warning, several shots rang out from the lead tank, which was
approximately 55 yards (50 meters) away.

Shyioukhi ducked for cover then heard Dana scream and place his hand on
his stomach, which was bleeding profusely. He said that within moments
of the shooting, approximately six U.S. soldiers, including the one who
shot Dana, surrounded them. Shyioukhi recounted that the soldier who
shot Dana screamed at Shyioukhi to “stand back.”

A doctor arrived on an armored personnel carrier (APC) after about 10
minutes and tried to stop the bleeding. The APC took Dana back to the
prison complex for treatment and to get him evacuated to a hospital.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Guy Shields called Dana’s death a “tragic
incident” and promised to do everything to avoid a similar incident in
the future. When questioned by London’s Independent
about the rules of engagement for U.S. troops, Shields said, “I can’t
give you details on the rules of engagement, but the enemy is not in
formations, they are not wearing uniforms. During wartime firing a
warning shot is not a necessity. There is no time for a warning shot if
there is potential for an ambush.”

Some journalists at the scene questioned how troops could mistake the
camera for a weapon. And according to experts who train war
correspondents, although one might easily mistake a camera for an RPG
launcher at a distance, a camera would be clearly visible from 55 to
110 yards (50 to 100 meters)-the distance at which Dana was hit.