Reporters Without Borders calls on the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) to take greater care to protect civilians during clashes with the Taliban after the ISAF revealed yesterday that an Afghan journalist who was killed during a Taliban attack in July was in fact shot by a US soldier who mistook him for a Taliban.
The journalist, Ahmad Omid Khpalwak, who worked for the Afghan news agency Pajhwok and the BBC, was killed during fighting in Tarin Kot, in the southern province of Oruzgan on 28 July. According to the findings of an ISAF investigation, released yesterday, he was shot when he tried to show his press card because the US soldier thought he was about detonate a suicide vest.
“We again offer our condolences to Khpalwak’s family,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This mishap has highlighted the constant danger for civilians and journalists, who are often at the center of the fighting. We had asked for light to be shed on the circumstances surrounding Khpalwak’s death and we are satisfied with the investigation that was carried out.
“In the light of its findings, we urge ISAF’s members to take more care when they are securing the sites of clashes. The protection of journalists and civilians must continue to be a priority for all soldiers during their presence in Afghanistan. And we call for assistance to be given to Khpalwak’s family, as it would be to the family of an officer killed in combat.”
“Although US soldiers were responsible for Khpalwak’s death, it is important to stress the Taliban’s responsibility as well. It was the Taliban who launched the attack that led to his death and it is the Taliban who continue to pose the leading threat to the safety of journalists and to the freedom of the media and information in Afghanistan.”
The investigation was carried out by an officer appointed by IFAS commander Gen. John R. Allen. In its conclusions, his report said: “The investigating officer found that the ISAF member involved in this incident complied with the laws of armed conflict and rules of engagement and acted reasonably under the circumstances.”