BBC journalist shot dead in Afghanistan was mistaken for a bomber
Published 09/09/2011 | 08:00
A BBC journalist shot dead in Afghanistan was killed in a "case of mistaken identity" when a US soldier took him for a suicide bomber, a report has found.
Ahmed Omed Khpulwak, 25, who worked as a stringer in Urozgan province in the south of the country, died when insurgents stormed the local radio and television offices.
While American forces believed the bearded reporter had opened fire at them, the report found Khpulwak had been unarmed.
But it said the US service member, who has not been identified, acted "reasonably under the circumstances" when he shot the freelance reporter.
At least 19 people died in the hour-long ambush on July 28 which began when three suicide bombers blew up vehicles packed with explosives at the gates of a government compound in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot.
Khpulwak, who joined the BBC in May 2008 as a stringer and also worked for Pajwak Afghan news agency, was in the Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) base when it also came under attack.
During the bloody fire-fight, two insurgents armed with suicide vests blasted their way into the building.
US forces who arrived at the scene were informed there were two bombers inside but were not aware of any civilians present, the report said.
As they made their way in, the insurgents detonated their weapons.
During a subsequent clearing operation, one soldier was instructed to move up to a broken wall where a young man with a beard was seen "with something clenched in one of his fists".
The man, later identified as Khpulwak, appeared to be reaching for something on his person with his other hand, the report said.
"Based on the events of the preceding minutes, the soldier assessed the actions as those of a suicide bomber who was taking steps to detonate an IED that posed a lethal threat to numerous soldiers in the immediate area. He shot the individual with his M-4, killing him," the report concluded.
"After a thorough investigation it was determined the reporter was killed in a case of mistaken identity.
"Mr Khpulwak was shot by an Isaf member who believed he was an insurgent that posed a threat and was about to detonate a suicide vest improvised explosive device (IED)."
The inquiry conducted by General John Allen, commander of Isaf, noted that all rounds perceived to be coming from Khpulwak's location were in fact fired by US soldiers.
But it found the serviceman who killed him had "complied with the laws of armed conflict and rules of engagement and acted reasonably under the circumstances."
The BBC said the report ended "a period of uncertainty".
In a statement, the broadcaster said: "The BBC, the wider media community and people around the world are greatly indebted to Ahmed Omed and all his colleagues who have been killed whilst doing their job."
Peter Horrocks, the corporation's director of global news, added: "The loss of Ahmed Omed is a tragedy for his family and friends as well as his colleagues at the BBC.
"Ahmed Omed's death further highlights the great dangers facing journalists who put their lives on the line to provide vital news from around the world.
"It is essential that journalists are given the best possible protection whilst reporting in dangerous situations so that the world can hear their stories.
"Our thoughts are with Ahmed Omed's family and we will continue to do all we can to support them."
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assaults which it said were carried out by six suicide bombers