he NATO-led International Security Assistance Force
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force says the killing of a journalist was "a case of mistaken identity." Image: isafmedia/Flickr/CC BY

BBC reporter Ahmed Omed Khpulwak, 25, was one of at least 19 people who died during an attack in Afghanistan in July. NATO admitted Thursday that the journalist was killed by a U.S. soldier who mistook him for a suicide bomber.

BBC asked for an investigation

Initial reports claimed that Khpulwak had been killed by the Taliban. The BBC, however, citing “conflicting reports” of the incident, asked NATO to investigate the death.

‘A case of mistaken identity’

Lieutenant Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), released the findings of that investigation in a statement Thursday:

“After a thorough investigation, it was determined the reporter was killed in a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Khpulwak was shot by an ISAF member who believed he was an insurgent that posed a threat and was about to detonate a suicide vest improvised explosive device.”

Cummings added that the soldier responsible for the death acted “reasonably under the circumstances,” and will not face any disciplinary action.

Eleven rounds from an assault rifle

Khpulwak was fatally shot with 11 rounds from an M-4 assault rifle on July 28 in a battle that occurred after two suicide bombers attacked the Radio Television Afghanistan offices in the Taliban-heavy Uruzgan province. U.S. soldiers were clearing the building when one of them spied Khpulwak near a broken wall. The journalist reportedly had “something clinched in one of his fists” and was reaching for something else with his other hand.  The soldier took the movement as an attempt to detonate a bomb.

Family receives apology

NATO officials met with Khpulwak’s family on Thursday to apologize for the mistake. Khpulwak had worked for the BBC on a freelance basis since 2008. He also worked for the Pajwak Afghan news agency.

The fallen journalist’s brother, Jawid, told the press that he was confused about how a soldier could mistake Khpulwak for a terrorist. “He spoke English and would have been showing his press card.”

Jawid reportedly received two texts from his brother during the attack. They read: “I am hiding. Death has come,” and “pray for me if I die.”

BBC global news director Peter Horrocks said:

“The loss of Ahmed Omed is a tragedy for his family and friends as well as his colleagues at the BBC. Ahmed Omed’s death further highlights the great dangers facing journalists who put their lives on the line to provide vital news from around the world. It is essential that journalists are given the best possible protection whilst reporting in dangerous situations so that the world can hear their stories.”


BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14840998
ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-09/us-soldier-killed-bbc-reporter-in-afghanistan/2877798
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/08/bbc-journalist-killed-afghanistan-us_n_954066.html

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