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U.S. vows probe of deadly attack on Iraqi TV crew



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. authorities said Tuesday they will investigate the shooting of an Iraqi TV reporter and his driver who were killed by coalition forces near military checkpoints in the north-central Iraqi city of Samarra.

Coalition troops fired on the TV crew Monday after it failed to respond to warning shots while approaching a coalition base, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a U.S. military spokesman.

"We just don't have enough information at this point to either assess blame, innocence or fault," Kimmitt said.

Al-Iraqiya reporter Asaad Kazem Mohammad and driver Hussein Saleh Kazem were killed, and cameraman Jassim Kamel was wounded, the military said.

Al-Iraqiya is a Pentagon-funded TV station, and the three were carrying appropriate press credentials, Kimmitt said.

Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said top U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer "is fully committed to a thorough and robust investigation."

"We are committed to getting to the bottom of what exactly happened," Senor said.

Kimmitt said the shooting took place in a wartime context. "We operate in a hostile environment," he said. "This is a combat environment."

Members of the crew were observed filming the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi police checkpoints near the coalition base, according to Kimmitt.

While the crew was filming outside a vehicle, coalition forces fired warning shots into a river, Kimmitt said, apparently referring to the Tigris River, which passes Samarra.

"After the warning shots were neglected, the individuals got into their vehicle and drove toward the coalition base," Kimmitt said.

"As the vehicle approached the base, additional warning shots were fired in an attempt to halt the vehicle," he said. "The vehicle, apparently disregarding the warning shots, drove toward the soldiers and their base."

After more shots were fired, the vehicle stopped and started again, continuing to approach the base's gate and was "engaged with direct fire," Kimmitt said.

He said five signs were posted in the area prohibiting filming and stopping near the base. The wounded man and an Iraqi police officer at the scene were questioned after the shooting, he said.


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