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U.S. Military Clears Soldiers in Cameraman’s Death

Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, 43, was filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad where a mortar attack killedsix Iraqis the previous day, when he was fatally shot through the chest by an American tank crew who the military said mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Dana and other colleagues previously received clearance by military officials to film in the region.

Lt. Col. George Krivo, a military spokesman, told the Associated Press that an official investigation concluded that “although a regrettable incident,” the soldiers “acted within the rules of engagement.” 

The U.S. Army has never publicly announced those rules due to
security concern for its soldiers, who face near-daily attacks by insurgents opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Reuters said that Dana’s final footage showed two U.S. tanks coming toward him. Two shots, apparently from the tanks, rang out and Dana’s camera fell to the ground. Dana was taken by a U.S. Army helicopter to a hospital where he died.

Military officials at the time called the shooting a “tragedy,” but other journalists working with Dana at the time protested that the tanks were too close to confuse his camera for a weapon.

Dana’s death came just five days after a U.S. military investigation cleared U.S. troops of improper conduct in the April 8 shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, the home base for the news media, and the resulting deaths of two journalists.

Press advocacy groups Reporters Without Borders and the 
U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists immediately demanded a full investigation into Dana’s shooting, and questioned whether the U.S. military was deliberately endangering the lives of journalists.

“From the eyewitness accounts, it appears that Dana was fired on without warning,” the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote in an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “He was filming in an area where no hostilities were taking place, raising questions about whether U.S. troops acted recklessly in targeting him.”

Dana, a husband and father of four, was the 17th journalist killed in the Iraq war, and the second Reuters cameraman killed by U.S. fire since the start of the Iraq war on March 20.

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