Afghan journalists say U.S. soldiers deleted photos, video after
bomb attack and shootings
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan journalists covering the aftermath of a
suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan Sunday said
U.S. troops deleted their photos and video and warned them not to
publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three
Afghans were shot to death.
Afghan witnesses and gunshot victims said U.S. forces fired on
civilians in cars and on foot along at least a six-mile stretch of
road in Nangarhar province following a suicide attack against the
Marine convoy. The U.S. military said militants also fired on
American forces during the attack.
The U.S. military and Afghan officials said eight Afghans died and
34 were wounded in the violence. One Marine was also injured.
A freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and a
cameraman working for AP Television News said a U.S. soldier deleted
their photos and video showing a four-wheel drive vehicle in which
three people were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide
bombing. The AP plans to lodge a protest with the American military.
The photographer, Rahmat Gul, said witnesses at the scene told him
the three had been shot to death by U.S. forces fleeing the attack.
The two AP freelancers arrived at the site about a half hour after
the suicide bombing, Gul said.
"When I went near the four-wheel drive, I saw the Americans taking
pictures of the same car, so I started taking pictures," Gul
said. "Two soldiers with a translator came and said, 'Why are you
taking pictures? You don't have permission."'
It wasn't clear why the accredited journalists would need permission
to take photos of a civilian car on a public highway.
Gul said the U.S. troops took his camera, deleted his photos and
returned it to him. The journalists came across another American,
showed their identification cards, and he agreed that they could
A Western military official who asked not to be identified because
he was not authorized to release the information said the troops
were Marine Special Operations Forces, the Marine Corps component
created in February 2006 of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
"The same soldier who took my camera came again and deleted my
photos," Gul said. "The soldier was very angry ... I told him, 'They
gave us permission,' but he didn't listen."
Gul's new photos were also deleted, and the American, speaking
through a translator, warned him that he did not want to see any AP
photos published anywhere. The American also raised his fist in
anger as if he were going to hit him, but he did not strike, Gul
Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman, said he did not
have any confirmed reports that coalition forces "have been involved
in confiscating cameras or deleting images."
Khanwali Kamran, a reporter for the Afghan channel Ariana
Television, was in a small group of journalists working alongside
Gul. Kamran said the American soldiers also deleted his footage.
"They warned me that if it is aired ... then, 'You will face
problems,"' Kamran said.
Taqiullah Taqi, a reporter for Afghanistan's largest television
station, Tolo TV, said Americans were using abusive language.
"According to the translator, they said, 'Delete them, or we will
delete you,"' Taqi said.
A freelance cameraman for AP Television News said that about 100
yards from the bomb site, a U.S. officer told him that he could not
go any closer to the scene but that he could shoot footage. The
cameraman asked not to be named for his own safety.
"Then I started filming the suicide attack site, where there was a
body and U.S. soldiers, and farther away, there was a four-wheel
drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death," he said.
As he was filming, he said, a U.S. soldier and translator "ordered
us not to move." The cameraman said they were very angry and deleted
any footage that included the Americans, as well as part of an
interview from a demonstration. Hundreds of Afghans had gathered to
protest the violence.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of the U.S. forces,
saying they dealt with the press poorly.
"Why did the soldiers do it if they don't have anything to hide? The
situation is very tense in Afghanistan, and the media should be able
to report about it freely and safely," said Jean-Francois Julliard,
a spokesman for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
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