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Journalists remember slain CNN colleagues

From John Raedler and
Sheila MacVicar

Yasser Khatab, left, and Duraid Isa Mohammed
Yasser Khatab, left, and Duraid Isa Mohammed

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(CNN) -- In a shower of bullets, two CNN employees working in Iraq died by the roadside after insurgents attacked their vehicle Tuesday.

Twenty-seven year-old Duraid Isa Mohammed, a translator, and driver Yasser Khatab, 25, joined CNN a year ago to help the network's correspondents cover the Iraqi war, and their colleagues said their services were invaluable.

Mohammed, had been a disc jockey before the war, and he added the role of producer to his duties for CNN. Among the highlights of his career, was his reporting of the August bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

"He was the first on the scene and did reporting for us from the ground," said Ingrid Formanek, a senior CNN producer in Baghdad. "He shone. It was his moment. And he was very proud of himself, and we were very proud of him."

John Raedler, a CNN producer, remembers Mohammad, a married man and father of two, as having "a sharp mind, a tireless work ethic and a passion for news." Mohammad, he said, was "compulsively gregarious, jovial, witty. To know him, was to like him."

Yasser's job as a driver was among the most hazardous in Iraq, but Raedler said he undertook "driving in Iraq with dignity, dedication and professionalism."

Yasser left behind a fiancee when he died en route to Baghdad from Hilla, where the CNN team had been on an assignment.

The CNN team was in a two-car convoy when bullets began piercing their cars. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie was in the lead car with correspondent Michael Holmes. A bullet grazed McWhinnie's head, leaving him with a small injury.

The security advisor in the lead car shot back and that driver sped to an Iraq police station where they sought help for the second car occupied by Khatab and Mohammed.

Iraqi police found the bodies of Khatab and Mohammed in their car.

"There is no doubt in my mind nor in the minds of anybody in the car, (that) if our security guard had not returned fire, we would all be dead," Holmes said. "These were not robbers. This was apparent...from what happened to our colleagues."

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