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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Palestinian Reporter Dies in Baghdad Battle

Mazen al-Tumeizi, 26, of the Al Arabiya television channel is killed in an explosion during the taping of a news report.

September 13, 2004|Ashraf Khalil | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — On the final day of his life, Mazen al-Tumeizi woke to the sound of battle.

The 26-year-old reporter for the Arab-language Al Arabiya television channel lived near the site of a Sunday morning battle between insurgents and U.S. soldiers along Baghdad's Haifa Street. He died from injuries suffered when a Bradley fighting vehicle, disabled in the battle, exploded behind him as he was filming a report.

"He really loved the work and he was brave," said Rajih Khalil, a graduate student here at Mustansiriya University and Tumeizi's roommate, recovering from leg and chest injuries in Baghdad's Karch Hospital.

Khalil and Tumeizi, both Palestinians from the West Bank city of Hebron, met in 1997 while students at Baghdad University's School of Journalism. Khalil accompanied Tumeizi on Sunday to cover the battle.

"He was in a hurry to get finished before the other channels arrived," Khalil said.

Without a video camera of his own, Tumeizi borrowed one from a colleague working with Reuters news agency and used it to tape a brief report. But as the pair were heading away from the scene of the battle, "he remembered that he forgot to say, 'This is Mazen al-Tumeizi,' " Khalil said.

Footage broadcast on Al Arabiya shows Tumeizi standing about 20 feet in front of the burning Bradley fighting vehicle with a crowd in the background milling around the wreckage. As the American vehicle is engulfed in smoke by the explosion, Tumeizi appears to double over and wince. He is then heard shouting, "I'm going to die," as the cameraman scrambles for cover.

It's unclear from the footage whether the explosion was caused by a rocket fired by a U.S. helicopter -- something Haifa Street residents claim and the military denies.

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said Tumeizi was "a good chap" who had interviewed him several times. U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Schmierer said he had tried unsuccessfully to contact the Al Arabiya bureau to offer his condolences.

"We knew and worked well with the journalist who was killed," he said. "He's covered some events that we've organized. We certainly feel great sympathy, and we certainly plan to be in contact with Al Arabiya about it."

Tumeizi is the third Al Arabiya employee killed in Baghdad this year. In March, journalist Ali Khatib and cameraman Ali Abdul Aziz were shot by U.S. troops at a Baghdad checkpoint.

The American military said the deaths were accidental and expressed regret for the incident.

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