CNN is reporting that two of their employees were killed and a third was wounded on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 when the unmarked cars they were traveling in came under gunfire south of Baghdad, Iraq, while returning from an assignment in the south in Hillah. CNN says the cars were ambushed on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Killed were producer and translator Duraid Isa Mohammed, 27, and driver Yasser Khatab, 25. They died of multiple gunshot wounds, CNN said. Photojournalist Scott McWhinnie, who was in a different vehicle than Mohammed and Khatab, was reportedly grazed in the head by a bullet.
CNN said that a single gunman armed with an AK-47 was seen standing in the sunroof of a rust-colored Opel that approached the CNN cars from behind, and that he opened fire on the lead vehicle striking it at least five times. A security adviser in that car returned fire and they managed to escape. Correspondent Michael Holmes, producer Shirley Hung, a security adviser and a second driver were in this car with McWhinnie. They were reportedly unhurt.
The second CNN car, with Mohammed and Khatab inside, spun around on the median and drove off the highway and was disabled, according to the CNN witnesses. The CNN crew in McWhinnie's vehicle drove to an Iraqi police station and asked officers to go back to the scene to help Mohammed and Khatab. The crew then drove to a forward operations base of the U.S. 82nd Airborne, where McWhinnie was treated, and the U.S. military sent a team to find the missing CNN employees.
Iraqi police found the car with the bodies of Mohammed and Khatab. CNN correspondent Michael Holmes, quoted in the CNN report on the attack, said "This was not an attempted robbery, they were clearly trying to take us out. There is no doubt in my mind that if our security adviser had not returned fire, everyone in our vehicle would have been killed."
Mohammed and Khatab joined CNN one year ago, their story said.