An American journalist was found dead in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday. Police said Steven Vincent, a well-known freelancer, had been shot multiple times after he and his Iraqi translator were abducted at gunpoint hours earlier. The translator, also shot, remains in serious condition.
In an opinion column published July 31 in The New York Times, Vincent wrote that Basra’s police force had been heavily infiltrated by members of Shi’ite political groups, including those loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
“I can confirm to you that officials in Basra have recovered the body of journalist Steven Vincent,” said embassy spokesman Pete Mitchell. “The U.S. Embassy is working with British military and local Iraqi officials in Basra to determine who is responsible for the death of this journalist. Our condolences go out to the family.”
Iraqi police in Basra said Vincent was abducted along with his female translator at gunpoint Tuesday evening. The translator, Nour Weidi, was seriously wounded.
Vincent and the translator were seized Tuesday afternoon by five gunmen in a police car as they left a currency exchange shop, police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi said.
Vincent’s body was discovered on the side of the highway south of Basra later. He had been shot in the head and multiple times in the body, al-Zaidi said.
His Web site describes him as a freelance investigative journalist and art critic whose work had appeared in major newspapers and magazines including the Wall Street Journal, Harper’s, and the Christian Science Monitor.
Police said Vincent, a writer who had been living in New York, had been staying in Basra for several months working on a book about the history of the city.
Vincent quoted an unidentified Iraqi police lieutenant as saying that some police were behind many of the assassinations of former Baath Party members that have taken place in Basra.
“He told me that there is even a sort of ‘death car’ — a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment,” he wrote.
Vincent was also critical of the British military, which is responsible for security in Basra, for turning a blind eye to abuses of power by Shiite extremists in the city.
He was the author of ““In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq,” a recently published book that was an account of life in a post-Saddam Iraq.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, as of June 28, at least 45 journalists and 20 media support workers have been killed while covering the war in Iraq since March 2003. Insurgent actions are responsible for the bulk of the deaths.