In a remarkable appearance, the commander of American forces in Baghdad stood before a roomful of Arab and Western reporters on Wednesday, trying to explain the events last Sunday that led to the deaths of a journalist and Iraqi civilians at the hands of his men. American generals do not often do such things, but he was prompted by deaths of 13 Iraqis, including a young girl and a television journalist. The death of Mazen Tomeizi, a Palestinian producer for Al Arabiya television, has been replayed on TV across the Middle East, reports the New York Times. He died on the air while standing in front of a burning Bradley armored vehicle.
Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli said the killings happened during a firefight between two American helicopters and a Bradley that had been crippled by Iraqi insurgents. Mixed in with the insurgents were a number of civilians. The helicopters loosed their rockets only after they had taken fire, Chiarelli said, from somewhere in the crowd. Film broadcast on Al Arabiya showed a crowd of mostly young men and boys around the Bradley, but showed no evidence that anyone was armed or fighting. The film showed an explosion and Tomeizi going down. Blood splattered on the camera lens. Arabic-speaking journalists were not mollified by Chiarelli’s explanation. “The tape does not show any shots coming from the tank,” said an Al Arabiya reporter. “We have the tape. We have proof.”