(Reuters) U.S. military confirmed on Thursday that its soldiers killed a Reuters journalist in Iraq but said their action was “appropriate.”
Describing Sunday’s incident, when television soundman Waleed Khaled was killed by multiple shots, Major General Rick Lynch said: “That car approached at a high rate of speed and then conducted activity that in itself was suspicious. There were individuals hanging outside with what looked to be a weapon.
“It stopped and immediately put itself in reverse. Again suspicious activity. Our soldiers on the scene used established rules of engagement and all the training received … decided that it was appropriate to engage that particular car.
“And as a result of that the driver was indeed killed and the passenger was hurt by shards of glass.”
Reuters cameraman Haider Kadhem, 24, like Waleed an Iraqi, was slightly wounded by flying fragments but survived in the passenger seat of the car, only to be detained for the next three days by U.S. troops. Kadhem was using a small video camera.
Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger rejected any suggestion that the killing of Waleed was justified.
“The idea that the killing of a professional journalist doing his duty could be justified is repugnant to me,” he said.
Lynch, senior spokesman for all U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said the investigation into the incident, by an officer from the army division involved in the shooting, had been concluded.
But a spokesman for the division said the report had not yet been formally completed and was not yet available.
Schlesinger called on the military to release the results of their inquiry as soon as possible so that Reuters could respond fully.
“To come to these conclusions without a full and independent investigation is rash and unwise,” he added.
Lynch said soldiers reacted when they saw the car traveling “forward at a high rate of speed.”
“That particular car looked like cars that we have seen in the past used as suicide bombs. It wasn’t a new car, it was an older model car … And there were two local nationals inside the car.
“Our soldiers took appropriate measures. We mourn the loss of life of all humans … But our soldiers are trained to respond in those situations.
“Put yourself in the place of the soldiers, knowing that the insurgents, who have been known to use suicide bombs, suicide car bombs, suicide vests, to attack innocent civilians, will always have an attack and then respond to that attack when the first responders come forward. So our soldiers took appropriate action on that particular case.”
Waleed Khaled, 35, had worked for Reuters in Baghdad for two years and was a key member of news teams working in the capital.
He was a much-loved colleague who left a wife who is four-months pregnant and a 7-year-old daughter.