As Powell walked into a press conference in Baghdad today, an Arab journalist stood to read a statement of protest for the killing by American troops of two Iraqi journalists, cameraman Ali Abdul Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib at a checkpoint yesterday.
“We declare our boycott of the conference because of the martyrs,” Najim al-Rubaie of Iraq’s Distor newspaper said in a statement read at the start of the news conference as Powell and Iraq’s U.S. governor Paul Bremer looked on.
“We declare our condemnation of the incident which led to the killing of the two journalists…who were killed at the hands of the American forces.”
Cameraman Ali Abdul Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib had approached American troops at the checkpoint and secured permission to film at the Burj al-Hayat hotel, scene of a rocket attack.
“My brother had asked US forces if they could film the Burj al-Hayat hotel and they told him it was fine. Moments later, a Volvo did not stop at the checkpoint and the soldiers opened fire,” said the cameraman’s brother Haidar Abdel Aziz.
“My brother and his colleague wanted to leave, they ran to their car and an armoured vehicle opened fire on them.”
An American military spokesman claimed the journalists had “tried to run the checkpoint.”
After the statement was read, more than 30 Arab journalists stood and walked out of the conference.
“I also regret the loss of life, the two journalists that they commemorated here by their action, I regret any loss of life,” Mr Powell told the remaining reporters.
The deaths of Abdul Aziz and Khatib are the second and third since The May 1 “Mission Accomplished” date, the first being Reuters’ Palestinian cameraman Dana Mazen, shot by American troops in August.
With the latest deaths, the Iraqi conflict has now claimed the lives of 16 journalists, 6 of whom were killed by American troops.