BBC reporter 'killed by mistake'

Katie Hodge
Monday 10 October 2011 15:56

A BBC journalist was killed in a "case of mistaken identity" when an ISAF serviceman in Afghanistan took him for a suicide bomber, a report found today.

Ahmed Omed Khpulwak, 25, who worked as a stringer in Urozgan province in the south of the country, was shot when the local radio and television offices were stormed.

An investigation found the service member "acted reasonably under the circumstances" when he opened fire on the freelance reporter.

The Army report, released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said its member had "complied with the laws of armed conflict and rules of engagement".

At least 19 people died in the hour-long attack on July 28 which began when three suicide bombers blew up vehicles packed with explosives at the gates of a government compound.

The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the assaults in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot.

Khpulwak, who joined the BBC in May 2008 as a stringer and also worked for Pajwak Afghan news agency, was in a local radio and television building when it came under attack.

General John Allen, commander of ISAF, was later appointed as an independent investigating officer to examine the circumstances which led to the journalist's death.

"After a thorough investigation it was determined the reporter was killed in a case of mistaken identity," his report said.

"Mr Khpalwak 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 (IED).

"The investigating officer found that the ISAF member involved in this incident complied with the laws of armed conflict and rules of engagement and acted reasonably under the circumstances."

The BBC said it had received confirmation from ISAF that Khpulwak was killed by a US soldier.

The corporation, which had called for the report, said confusion surrounding the circumstances of his death had "added to the tragedy felt by his family and colleagues".

The report ended "a period of uncertainty", it said.

"The BBC, the wider media community and people around the world are greatly indebted to Ahmed Omed and all his colleagues who have been killed whilst doing their job," the broadcaster said in a statement.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said a total of six suicide bombers conducted the attacks.

Hospital staff in Tarin Kot said the 19 killed included 10 children, a policeman and two women. Another 37 people were wounded.

Peter Horrocks, the BBC's director of global news, 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.

"Our thoughts are with Ahmed Omed's family and we will continue to do all we can to support them."


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