Officials at NATO have admitted they made a “mistake” last month in Afghanistan by executing an unarmed BBC journalist, but are defending the shooting by saying that the American soldier responsible complied with the laws of armed conflict.
A two-page summary released from NATO on Thursday confirms that a US soldier working with NATO forces shot and killed Ahmed Omed Khpulwa during a July 28 excursion in southern Afghanistan. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Khpulwa prompted his estate to become suspicious of the incident, leading the BBC to push for NATO to pursue an investigation into the incident.
Now, weeks later, NATO has concluded that the journalist’s death did not stem from a gunfight with insurgents but that an American troop fired the fatal shots.
According to the official report, however, NATO feels that the soldier “acted reasonably” by unloading 11 bullets into the body of Khpulwa.
Khpulwa was on assignment at the Radio Television Afghanistan building in the town of Tarin Kot late August when the area was infiltrated by insurgent soldiers. Suicide bombers and gunmen stormed several government buildings in the town, whom were then met with retaliation by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The journalist was spotted near a partly collapsed wall “with something clinched in one of his fists and reaching for something on his person with the other hand,” according to the report, when a soldier, assuming, Khpulwa to be an insurgent attempting to detonate a suicide vest, opened fire.
Speaking to the UK’s The Guardian yesterday, the brother of the late journalist seemed still confused by NATO’s report, asking, “They thought he was a suicide bomber, but how?”
“He spoke English and would have been showing his press card.”
In the formal report, NATO says the incident was simply a case of “mistaken identity.” They say that the armed soldier responded with actions appropriate for dealing with an insurgent with a suicide vest.
In the case of this slain 25-year-old journalist, now 20 members of the press have been killed in Afghanistan since the American-led invasion began less than a decade ago.
In a statement from BBC, Global News Director Peter Horrocks says Mr. Khpulwak’s death “further highlights the great dangers facing journalists who put their lives on the line to provide vital news from around the world.” The Committee to Protect Journalists adds in a statement of their own that 26 journalists have been killed in 2011 alone this year across the globe.
Over 20 in all were killed on the July 28 attack, half of whom were children.