November 1, 2004, in Ramadi, Iraq
Najim, an Iraqi freelance cameraman, was shot and killed in the western city of Ramadi, where he had been covering a gun battle between the U.S. military and Iraqi insurgents.
Najim, who worked for a number of news organizations, was on assignment for Reuters that day. He was shot in the back of the neck while working near his home in the Andalus District of Ramadi, 70 miles (112 kilometers) west of the capital, Baghdad, Reuters said. "Video shot from an upper floor of a building nearby shows Najim, at first half-hidden by a wall, move into the open," Reuters reported. "As soon as he emerges, a powerful gunshot cracks out and he falls to the ground, his arms outstretched. Civilians are seen gathering calmly at the scene immediately afterwards to look at his lifeless body."
A November 2 statement from the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force said that U.S. forces "engaged several insurgents in a brief small arms firefight that killed an individual who was carrying a video camera."
The statement went on to say, "Inspection of videotape in [Najim's] camera revealed footage of previous attacks on Multi-National Force military vehicles that included the insurgent use of RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades), an IED (roadside bomb) and small arms fire." The statement also said that the insurgents who fought U.S. forces "fled the scene with their wounded but left the body of the dead man along the side of the road."
On November 3, The New York Times reported that the Marine Corps had opened an investigation. "'We did kill him," an unnamed military official told The Times. "'He was out with the bad guys. He was there with them, they attacked, and we fired back and hit him."
Reuters rejected the military's implication that Najim was working as part of an insurgent group. The agency reported that video footage showed no signs of fighting in the vicinity and noted that Najim had "filmed heavy clashes between Marines and insurgents earlier in the day but that fighting had subsided."
On November 2, CPJ wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seeking an inquiry into the incident.
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