Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Afghan President Calls for Investigation into Death of Afghan NY Times Reporter

Could this be one reason why the NY Times runs op-eds calling Hamid Karzai corrupt? A NY Times "fixer" (their term, not ours) is killed, and their reporter leaves his body behind?

Also, why doesn't the British Government want an investigation? Do they have something to hide? Story from Agence France Presse:
KABUL — President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday ordered a second investigation into the killing of an Afghan reporter during a British commando raid that rescued his Western colleague, his office said.

The president told the interior ministry and National Directorate for Security to re-open inquiries into the death last week of Sultan Munadi, a 34-year-old father of two.

Karzai issued the order after meeting Munadi's family at his palace in Kabul and hearing their version of the events that led to his death.

Munadi and Stephen Farrell, both working for The New York Times, were snatched by Taliban rebels while investigating suspected civilian deaths in a NATO air strike in the northern Kunduz province earlier this month.

A dramatic airborne commando raid last Wednesday saw British-Irish citizen Farrell whisked to safety but Munadi killed in the crossfire, his bullet-riddled body left at the scene for his family to collect.

Karzai met Munadi's father and brother and "assured them of a serious investigation into his death," the presidency said.

Based on investigations carried out by Qurban Mohammad, the reporter's father, and witnesses, Munadi's "martyrdom case is totally different to what is said by media and coalition forces," said the statement.

"Listening to Qurban Mohammad, the president ordered the interior ministry and National Directorate of Security to launch a re-investigation," it said.

Initial investigations showed Munadi was killed by gunfire at close-range, the statement said.

Munadi's brother Mohammad Osman told AFP that he believed the fatal shot entered vertically from under his chin and was fired from such close range that it left burn marks on the skin around the wound.

"He had a gun shot from under his chin with a skin burn. This is not possible unless he is shot with gun barrel touching his skin," said Osman.

Munadi's death caused heartbreak and anger among his colleagues, some of whom accused international forces of double standards in their dealings with Afghans and Westerners.

The operation sparked a blacklash over the use of British troops with reports saying that negotiations had been under way to free the pair and after a British soldier, and an Afghan woman and child were also killed in the raid.

It has been unclear whether Munadi was killed by insurgents or troops.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband rebuffed calls for an inquiry, insisting the raid was the only way to secure the men's release.
Meanwhile, Reporters Sans Frontiers has also called for an investigation:
Call for probe into Afghan journalist’s death during British rescue operation
Published on 16 September 2009

Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth Secretary of State for Defence London United Kingdom
Paris, 16 September 2009

Dear Secretary of State,

There has been a great deal of emotion and anger in Afghanistan and internationally about the death of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi in the operation carried out by British special forces on 9 September to rescue Munadi’s British colleague, Stephen Farrell.

We urge you to order an investigation that will shed light on the problems and errors that led to this tragedy. We also ask you to publish its findings and to sanction those responsible.

Several aspects of this commando operation continue to be unclear. We do not doubt that the aim was to rescue the two journalists, who had been kidnapped a few days earlier by Taliban militants, and to spare them a long and difficult captivity.
But we think the investigation needs to explain why a decision to carry out a military operation, involving a serious risk to both the soldiers and the hostages, was taken so quickly and without consulting all the parties. You were personally involved in this decision. Why did you not await the outcome of the negotiations that were under way with the Taliban?

According to the various accounts available of how the operation unfolded, the British soldiers knew there were two hostages, a westerner and an Afghan. They even had photographs of Farrell and Munadi. When he was killed, Munadi was obviously unarmed and, shouting in English, had just identified himself as a journalist. What led the British or Afghan combatants to open fire at that precise moment? What were the rules of engagement that had been given to the British commandos?

Munadi’s body was left at the scene of the operation. His family members were forced to fetch his body themselves from a very dangerous region. How is it possible that the body of one of the two hostages was abandoned in this fashion? Wasn’t the goal to take care of both the British journalist and his Afghan colleague?

As we said in the press release we issued on the day Munadi died, we consider that all options, including military ones, have to be considered in kidnapping cases.

But it is important that all these questions are answered. The need to know the truth is pressing, not only for Munadi’s family and colleagues but also for the family and colleagues of the British soldier who died in this operation.

We trust you will satisfy our hopes.

Jean-Fran├žois Julliard Secretary-General