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The New York Times' blog The Lede, March 5, 2007

As Afghanistan Wobbles, No Pictures, Please...

US forces deleted photos taken by photographers

By Tom Zeller Jr.

a man shouts anti-American slogans after the attack
An Afghan man cries as he shouts anti-American slogans after a car bomber attacked an American convoy in Barayekab in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Swirling amid the fallout from the deaths of a number of civilians on a crowded Afghan highway yesterday is what appears to have been an attempt by some American soldiers at the scene to prevent any images of the carnage from getting out to the wider world.

The circumstances of the incident on the highway are hotly contested, as Carlotta Gall reported for The Times yesterday. The American military says that the killed and injured civilians simply were caught in the crossfire between coalition troops and the militants who had snarled traffic with a suicide-bomb attack.

Afghan witnesses and some authorities, on the other hand, accused the Americans troops of indiscriminately shooting at civilian vehicles in anger after the explosion.

Whatever the reality, as outrage over the incident mounts in Afghanistan — including a stern condemnation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai — this detail from yesterday’s Associated Press report is among the headlines today:

U.S. forces near Sunday’s bombing later deleted photos taken by a freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and video taken by a freelancer working for AP Television News. Neither the photographer nor the cameraman witnessed the suicide attack or the subsequent gunfire. It was not immediately known why the soldiers deleted the photos and videos. The U.S. military didn’t immediately comment on the matter.

The freelance photographer, Rahmat Gul, said he took photos of a four-wheel drive vehicle where three Afghans had been shot to death inside.

An American soldier then took Gul’s camera and deleted the photos. Gul said he later received permission to take photos from another soldier, but that the first soldier came back and angrily told him to delete the photos again. Gul said the soldier then raised his fist as if he was going to strike Gul.

A second reporter, Khanwali Kamran, who was working for the Afghan channel Ariana Television, said the American soldiers also deleted his footage.

a man shouts anti-American slogans after the attackAn Afghan man stands near two dead bodies of Afghan civilians who were killed by American soldiers after a car bombing on an American convoy in Barayekab in Nangarhar province eastern Afghanistan, Sunday, March 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

According to Mr. Kamran, he was warned that if footage was aired, he would “face problems.” The A.P. also quoted Taqiullah Taqi, a reporter for Afghanistan’s largest television station, Tolo TV, sayintg that American troops told him and his crew to delete images in no uncertain terms: “According to the translator, they said, ‘Delete them, or we will delete you,” he said.

BBC News is reporting that The A.P. is lodging a formal complaint with the American military today. The military says that, so far at least, it has no confirmed reports of coalition forces confiscating cameras or deleting images.

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders is raising questions about the indicent: “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 group.

Not helping matters: American forces said they dropped two 2,000-pound bombs during an air strike last night in the northern Afghan province of Kapisa in retaliation for an attack on an American base. Early reports indicate that a number of civilians seem to have been killed in that attack, too — including five women and three children — and outrage is mounting again today.

Category: US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 9910


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