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Journalist's death must lead to better combat rules

(CPJ/IFEX) - 25 April 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator

Wednesday, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) released its report, "Death of an Uruzgan Journalist: Command Errors and Collateral Damage" by Kate Clark on the July 2011 shooting death of journalist Omaid Khpalwak. Clark's details on how Khpalwak died corroborate and then go beyond the investigation already conducted by the U.S.-led NATO forces who were responsible. Her report was important to write, and is important to read.

Khpalwak, who worked for the BBC and Pajhwok Afghan News, was at a local office of state broadcaster Radio and Television of Afghanistan in Tarin Kot, capital of Uruzgan province, when the Taliban targeted the governor's office and police headquarters at the same location. It wasn't immediately clear whether the Taliban had killed him, or he died in the cross-fire when the NATO forces, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), counterattacked.

Eventually, as we reported in September 2011, ISAF released a statement taking responsibility for the killing. They said an American soldier shot Khpalwak because he thought he was an armed insurgent reaching for a bomb under his vest. "He was unarmed; no weapon was found nearby. It appears all the rounds perceived as coming from him were instead fired by U.S. soldiers," the ISAF statement said. Investigators concluded that troops may have mistaken a press card Khpalwak was holding up as identification for a bomb trigger.

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