RAMADI,(Reuters) – An Iraqi television cameraman was killed in clashes between Sunni rebels and U.S. forces in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi on Tuesday, witnesses said on Wednesday.
Mahmoud Za’al, who worked for Baghdad Satellite Channel, was filming an attack on two buildings occupied by U.S. forces in Ramadi when he was wounded in the legs and then killed moments later in a U.S. air strike, witnesses told Reuters.
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. It said it had launched a strike in the vicinity of Ramadi on Monday but this had caused no injuries or damage.
Baghdad Satellite Channel, which is owned by the biggest Sunni political grouping, the Iraqi Islamic Party, confirmed Za’al’s death and said it was investigating the circumstances.
Witnesses said at noon on Tuesday that gunmen began firing mortar rounds at the governorate directorate building and the Iraqi Nationality Department, both bases for U.S. forces.
The gunmen also blasted the buildings with heavy machineguns and rocket propelled grenades, they said, adding the assault had lasted several hours.
“When they got very close to these buildings, helicopters and other military planes started shooting at them,” one witness said.
“The cameraman was in the streets to film the clashes when he was wounded, first in his legs, and then when U.S. planes started shooting he was killed.”
Doctor Hamdi al-Alusi at Ramadi Hospital said two civilians were killed and three wounded, including a woman and a 10-year-old child, in the violence. He did not know whether any gunmen or U.S. soldiers had been killed or wounded.
U.S. forces in Ramadi called in air strikes last Friday to repulse an insurgent attack. The rebel assault coincided with the release of the results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary poll, which confirmed the dominance of Shi’ite Islamists.
Iraq remains the most dangerous place for journalists. Some 60 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to the media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). At least 41 of those were Iraqi, the CPJ said in a recent report.
A cameraman working for Reuters, Dhia Najim, was shot dead during fighting between U.S. Marines and insurgents on Nov. 1, 2004. The exact circumstances of his killing have never been clarified despite requests to the U.S. military from Reuters.
Many journalists have also been taken hostage; some have been killed by their abductors but most have been released unharmed. American journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 7 and is still missing.