The two missing digital cameras of killed Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen have been returned to the news service, they report from Iraq, and the last pictures he took before dying in Baghdad do not show any gunmen, or people running for cover, or clashes between militants and U.S. forces.
Reuters has asked the United States to conduct a "full and objective investigation" into last week's deaths of Noor-Eldeen, 22, a photographer, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, who were killed in what witnesses have said was a U.S. helicopter attack and what Iraqi police have labeled as a "random American bombardment."
Army statements have said the two were killed as bystanders to a firefight with insurgents, and that their deaths were being investigated. The military also says nine insurgents were killed in the skirmish by U.S. troops.
Reuters views that lack of any photographs on Noor-Eldeen's cameras of insurgents, firefights, or battle as evidence that casts doubt on the military's explanation of their deaths. "Our preliminary investigation raises real questions about whether there was fighting at the time the two men were killed," said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters. "For the sake of their memory and for the sake of all journalists in Iraq we need a thorough and objective investigation that will help us and the military learn lessons that will improve the safety of journalists in the future."
Witnesses interviewed by Iraqi police and by Reuters say they saw no gunmen in the area where the two were killed, as claimed by the military, and that there was no sign of battle between insurgents and troops prior to an aerial attack by a U.S. Apache helicopter around 10:30 a.m. Baghdad time. After the shooting the military said in a statement that the air attack had come in as "reinforcements" after troops on the ground came under fire from small arms and rocket propelled grenades.
Reuters says they have examined the last photographs on two digital camera bodies that Noor-Elden was using. One body had a wide-angle lens, and the second body had a medium-length telephoto lens on it. The news service says the sequence of images, based on the cameras' internal clocks, show that he photographed a wide-angle lens shot from behind a window that has a bullet hole in it and two older women, dressed in black, are walking towards the window. Other pictures show what they believe is the aftermath of an earlier shooting incident. Then on the camera with the long lens, four frames of a U.S. Humvee at a crossroads. Ten minutes later, what Reuters thinks is the last picture taken by Noor-Eldeen while he's alive shows the top of someone's head as he appears to be falling to the ground or crouching as dust sprays off the top of a wall.
Some 20 minutes later, Reuters says, there are pictures that show the lower legs of a U.S. soldier and another soldier's shadow, and that they think these pictures were taken while being carried and bumped by legs that triggered the shutter. Three hours later, there are two pictures that appear to show U.S. soldiers in a barracks setting.
Schlesinger said Reuters wants the U.S. military to explain why the cameras were confiscated. The news agency also wants access to any images from any cameras that were onboard any helicopters involved in the incident, and recordings of any voice communications between air and ground forces. Reuters is also asking for any records, reports, or logs from units involved, and a list of any weapons taken from the scene.