U.S. soldier dies in blast in Iraq; 2 hurt in attack

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Violence continued in the Iraqi capital, claiming the life of another U.S. soldier, while journalism watchdogs called yesterday for an investigation into the killing of a Reuters cameraman by U.S. troops Sunday.

U.S. officials said the soldier, from the Army's 1st Armored Division, was fatally wounded by an explosive in Baghdad. He was rushed to a combat hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The military didn't release other details, and it wasn't clear whether the blast was the result of a hostile act. The soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of his family.

Two soldiers were wounded in a separate incident, when guerrillas attacked their convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms about eight miles east of Tikrit, 4th Infantry spokesman Lt. Col. William MacDonald said. The soldiers were in stable condition.

The Army also continued to battle a fire on Iraq's main northern oil export pipeline into Turkey. Accounts varied over whether the blaze was accidental or an act of sabotage. It would take at least 10 days to repair the damaged pipeline, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman Maj. Jocelyn Aberle said.

Meanwhile, military officials offered condolences for the death of cameraman Mazen Dana, calling the shooting a mistake, but said soldiers will not fire warning shots if they believe there is a threat.

"I can't give you details on the rules of engagement, but the enemy is not in formations, they are not wearing uniforms. During wartime, firing a warning shot is not a necessity. There is no time for a warning shot if there is potential for an ambush," Lt. Col. Guy Shields told a news briefing.

Mazen Dana's death sent a chill through the hundreds-strong community of journalists covering the U.S. fight against Iraqi guerrillas.

"I am deeply saddened to report the death of another Reuters journalist in Iraq - once again at the hands of U.S. troops," Reuters Chief Executive Officer Tom Glocer said in a statement.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders demanded that Washington launch a full investigation and public accounting into the shooting of the 43-year-old Palestinian.

Dana was the second Reuters cameraman - and the 17th news organization employee - to die since the war began March 20. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk died April 8 after an American tank fired at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad as U.S. troops took the city.

The U.S. military recently absolved American forces of wrongdoing in that incident, saying they fired in self-defense. Witnesses said there was no gunfire from the hotel when the American tank opened fire.

"Coming so soon after the death of Taras Protsyuk, also killed by a U.S. tank - this latest death is hard to bear," Glocer said. "That's why I am personally calling upon the highest levels of the U.S. government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy."

Reporters Without Borders demanded Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld carry out an inquiry that is "honest, rapid and designed to shed full light on this tragedy, not whitewash the U.S. Army."

Dana was killed by U.S. tank forces while filming outside the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, scene of a mortar attack the day before.

His last pictures, shown repeatedly on satellite television broadcasts seen in Baghdad, showed two tanks approaching, the nearest about 50 yards away when six shots rang out and the camera fell to the ground from Dana's shoulder.

Dana was believed to have been killed by the first shot, which penetrated his chest.

"I saw Mazen. He screamed one time, and he was putting his hand on his chest and fell down on the ground and start screaming," said Nael al-Shyoukhi, who was working with Dana.

"I saw him bleeding. I looked, I saw the American soldiers around us, and I screamed to the same soldier who shot him, 'Why did you shoot him? We are TV. You see him with a camera, why did you shoot him?'"

Recommended on Baltimore Sun