By Aseel Kami and Khalid al-Ansary | An Iraqi television station accused U.S. troops on Thursday of shooting dead one of its cameramen as he walked to his Baghdad home. Colleagues of Wisam Ali Ouda at the Afaq television channel said he was among 11 people killed by U.S. soldiers in eastern Baghdad’s Obaidi district on Wednesday morning.
The U.S. military has said its troops shot dead 11 militants, but police and several residents said at least some of the dead were civilians killed by U.S. snipers.
“Wisam was one of our most prominent cameramen. His killers have no values or humanity,” the station’s director, Mohammed Thiab al-Baidhani, said. “We will loudly condemn those who kill journalists.”
A spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Stover, denied any civilians were killed during Wednesday’s military operation in Obaidi.
“All extremists were positively identified as committing a violent act or posed a threat to commit a violent act before each engagement,” he told Reuters.
There have been conflicting accounts of Wednesday’s shootings in different parts of the Obaidi district. It lies close to Sadr City, the main stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, where Iraqi troops backed by tanks have launched an operation to take control of the streets.
Police said the dead included an elderly man and three street cleaners, but also at least three Sadr militants.
Colleagues of Ouda, 32, who was buried in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday, said they had made pendants bearing his image to commemorate him.
“He was a close friend, we filmed a lot together. It’s a tragedy,” cameraman Ali Adnan said.
Iraq, which witnessed significant growth in the media after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work, according to a New York-based journalism watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Iraqi journalists have been targeted because of their work or caught up in the cross-fire of Iraq’s many-sided conflict.
Early this month gunmen shot dead Sarwa Abdul-Wahab, a female Iraqi reporter, in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul.
About 130 journalists, both Iraqi and foreign, have been killed in Iraq since 2003.
(Additional reporting and writing by Tim Cocks, editing by Mark Trevelyan)