Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Yasser Salihee's Final Report From Iraq

The last story filed by Knight-Ridder special correspondent, Yasser Salihee appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday but received little attention. "Campaign of executions feared in Iraq" was co-written by Tom Lasseter and it suggested that the Iraqi police may have been acting as executioners instead of policemen (cache link):

"Days after Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced on April 28, the director of Baghdad's central morgue began noticing that the bodies of Sunni Muslim men were turning up after the men had been detained by people wearing Iraqi police uniforms."

"Faik Baqr, who is also the chief forensic investigator at the morgue, said the corpses first caught his attention because the men appeared to have been killed in methodical fashion. They were blindfolded and their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, Baqr said. In most cases, the morgue director said, the dead men looked as if they had been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with a single bullet to the head."

"Iraqi and American officials said the killings were not being investigated systematically, but in dozens of interviews with families and Iraqi officials, and a review of medical records, a reporter and two special correspondents found more than 30 examples of this type of killing in less than a week. They include 12 cases with specific dates, times, names and witnesses who said they might come forward if asked by law-enforcement officials."

"U.S. officials, who have advisers in the Interior Ministry, have said they are aware of the abductions and killings, but think insurgents posing as police are responsible."

But Yasser Salihee will be unable to follow-up on this developing story that has attracted little interest in the American press.

Because Yasser Sailhee is dead. He was executed, most likely by a U.S. sniper on Friday, June 24th.

Tom Lasseter broke the horrifying news earlier today about his former co-writer (link):

"Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for Knight Ridder, was shot to death in Baghdad last Friday."

"The shot appears to have been fired by a U.S. military sniper, though there were Iraqi soldiers in the area who also may have been shooting at the time."

"Salihee, 30, had the day off and was driving alone near his home in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah when a single bullet pierced his windshield and then his skull."

Once again, the Pentagon initially lied about the murder of a journalist in Iraq.

"An early report said Salihee was shot by a passing U.S. convoy when he failed to heed hand signals or shouts from soldiers. That later turned out to be untrue."

But there are conflicting accounts.

"Most of the witnesses told another Knight Ridder Iraqi special correspondent that no warning shots were fired. But the front right tire of Salihee's car, a white Daewoo Espero, was pierced by a bullet, presumably meant to stop him from advancing."

At the end of Lasseter's article, there is a brief mention of the story that he and Salihee had been working on:

"In the last story he worked on, Salihee used his medical expertise to review records of Sunnis brought to city morgues after reportedly being taken by men in police uniforms."

Perhaps this was an accident. Perhaps Yasser Salihee hadn't been targeted. Perhaps shit just happens in Iraq.

But will the American Press follow-up on Yasser Salihee's final story? That remains to be seen.

(I wrote a post about other journalists killed in Iraq under strange circumstances just a few weeks ago. It was in response to a right wing blog started by prominent right wing bloggers such as Mike Krempasky, Bill Roggio, and LaShawn Barber called Media Slander. The Media Slander bloggers slander American journalists who dare to suggest that some correspondents murdered in Iraq may have been targeted. They do this by twising the journalists' words around to make it seem like they are attacking the troops, instead of the Pentagon brass and Bush Administration war architects: Media Slander, Aptly Named.)

(hat tip to The Raw Story for linking to today's story about Yasser Salihee's execution.)

Update: Alfdom, a loyal reader, points out that the Back to Iraq blog reported the other day that another Iraqi journalist was killed in Iraq (link):

"The Americans have killed two Iraqi journalists inside of a week. One was killed Friday and I just heard news of the other. I know a lot about the first death, but at the request of his family, I can't publish much because his widow fears retribution for her husband having worked for a Western news organization. But he was killed with a single shot to the head by Americans in a passing convoy."

"The second I don't know much about, as I just heard about it. Details haven't started coming in yet."

Christopher Allbritton, the blogger at Back to Iraq, used to work as a journalist for the New York Daily News and the Associated Press. In March of 2003, Allbritton went to Iraq and became "the Web's first fully reader-funded journalist-blogger." He now reports for TIME Magazine and other outlets.

Albritton added an update to the post quoted from above which explains why his post may have come off as harsh:

"Sorry for the harshness of my above words. I wasn't trying to say that the first Iraqi journalist was killed by Americans for being a journalist. There is no evidence that he was killed for anything but being near a convoy and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, a single shot in the head does suggest he was definitely targeted and not the victim of a lucky shot"

I've read Back To Iraq many times in the past, but I stupidly neglected to add it to my blogroll. Allbritton is one of the few unembedded journalists still reporting from Iraq and I'll have to add him to my list of daily reads.


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