Monday, September 12, 2011
BBC Reporter killed by NATO forces in Afghanistan
It has emerged that Nato forces shot dead the BBC reporter Ahmed Omed Khpulwak in July, mistakenly believing that he was a suicide bomber. ISAF, the Nato- led International Security Assistant Forces were at the time responding to several suicide bombings at the offices of Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), in the town of Tarin Kowt, southern Uruzgan province.
Khpulwak’s body was discovered at the broadcasting offices, in the aftermath of two suicide bombings, which had injured US soldiers. He had been shot eleven times. ISAF claim that its soldiers acted in accordance with the laws of armed conflict under the circumstances, and soldiers maintain that Omed Khpulwak had ‘something clinched in one of his fists and [was] reaching for something on his person with his other hand’, fuelling fears that he was a suicide bomber.
Tarin Kowt has experienced a surge in violence in recent weeks; three suicide bombings in the town market led to air strikes and heavy fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban. Khpulwak was one of nineteen people initially believed to have been killed by the Taliban in this particular attack. However, NATO were prompted to launch an inquiry into the death of the BBC reporter, following the Taliban’s claim that they were not responsible for the shooting. The Taliban did assume responsibility for the earlier suicide bombings.
The death of Omed Khpulwak once again brings the safety of journalists into the spotlight. If the actions of ISAF forces really were in compliance with international standards and laws governing conflict, then we have to question whether the ‘safeguards’ put in place are adequate enough protection for the reporters on the front line.
Omed Khpulwak worked as a reporter for the BBC Pashto service, but some of his reports also reached English- speaking audiences. He has been described by colleagues as a ‘brave reporter’. The death of Khpulwak is the third casualty for the BBC in Afghanistan.