The body of an Associated Press employee was found shot in the back of the head Friday, six days after he was last seen by his family leaving for work.
Ahmed Hadi Naji, 28, was the fourth AP staffer to die violently in the Iraq war and the second AP employee killed in less than a month. He had been a messenger and occasional cameraman for the AP for 2 1/2 years.
“All of us at AP share the pain and grief being felt by Ahmed’s family and friends,” said AP President and CEO Tom Curley. “The situation for our journalists in Iraq is unprecedented in AP’s 161-year history of covering wars and conflicts. The courage of our Iraqi colleagues and their dedication to the story stand as an example to the world of journalism’s enduring value.”
The circumstances of Naji’s death were unclear. Dozens of Iraqis are found slain almost every day in Baghdad, many believed victims of sectarian death squads.
Naji’s wife, Sahba’a Mudhar Khalil, reported him missing Dec. 30 when he did not return that evening. He had left home by motorcycle in the Ashurta Al Khamsa District in southwest Baghdad at 10:30 a.m., telling her he was going to the AP office. Naji’s body was found in a morgue.
In addition to his wife, Naji is survived by 4-month-old twins, a boy, Zaid, and a girl, Rand.
The death came as colleagues were still mourning Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, an AP cameraman who was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes Dec. 12 in Mosul. He was the second AP journalist killed in that northern Iraqi city in less than two years.
On April 23, 2005, cameraman Saleh Ibrahim was killed after an explosion in Mosul. He was a father of five in his early 30s. AP photographer Mohammed Ibrahim was wounded. The circumstances surrounding the death and injury are still unclear.
In 2004, Ismail Taher Mohsin, an AP driver, was ambushed by gunmen and killed near his home in Baghdad.
Naji’s death brings to 30 the number those who have lost their lives on assignments for the AP since the news cooperative was founded in 1846.
Before Naji’s killing, Reporters Without Borders had recorded at least 94 journalists killed in Iraq since the war started nearly four years ago. Forty-five media assistants also have been killed, according to the Paris-based advocacy group.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had put the figure at 92 journalists and 37 media support workers killed in Iraq.