Iraq

U.S. Forces Raid Home of Iraqi Journalist

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Steve Inskeep speaks to an Iraqi journalist whose home was raided in the middle of the night by U.S. forces because of mistaken identity. Ali Fadhil was detained for the night in Baghdad. Fadhil was working for British media on a documentary about the alleged misuse of millions of dollars intended for Iraqi reconstruction.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The experience of one Iraqi journalist opens a window into his country's daily life. The war changed almost everything for Ali Fadhil(ph). He was able to come home from exile. He became a journalist and worked for Western news outlets, including this one. He went to London for training and now works for the British media. He's been gathering information about the alleged misuse of reconstruction money. And then American troops burst into his home in Baghdad in the middle of the night. Ali Fadhil does not think the American soldiers wanted to stop his reporting; he says they were looking for somebody else. But he says they opened fire, took his documents and videotape and detained him overnight.

Mr. ALI FADHIL (Iraqi Journalist): We were sleeping, and suddenly there was a big explosion in the house and shooting a couple of bullets into the room while we are sleeping, and then American soldiers stepped into the room and there was shouting and shouting and caught me out of the bed where I was sleeping with my wife and my two kids. And then they tied my hands and they took me downstairs where they investigated me a little bit and under threatening, of course, with a dog and also they were smashing the house.

INSKEEP: You said smashing the house?

Mr. FADHIL: Yes. And they found a tape that I was filming, I was working on, and this film has shots for the Green Zone and was taken from the Palestine Hotel shortly before for a week or so.

INSKEEP: Oh, you were up in the Palestine Hotel...

Mr. FADHIL: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...where a lot of international journalists stay...

Mr. FADHIL: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...and you were taking videotape of the Green Zone.

Mr. FADHIL: Exactly. And he thought that I'm doing this kind of spying or something, but when I explained to him that I am a journalist and working for the British media, he kind of understood that. But this alone did not make it obvious for them that I'm not the man he was looking for. Another three houses in the same block were raided as well.

INSKEEP: You were taken into custody by US forces. You were held for a number hours and then released, correct?

Mr. FADHIL: Yeah, exactly. I've been taken and they drove for a while, and they unfolded my eyes, and two men were standing and they're apologizing, a smile saying, `We had misinformations, and that's why we brought you here, to apologize.' The next morning, they talked with me and two other different men; they looked like they were working for private security or something. And they said they're going to fold my eyes and they're going to take me to somewhere, take out--take cab and turn back home. They gave me a cash money, a thousand dollars for the damages of the house and $500 for the time I spent with them in the Green Zone, and then the next morning found myself in the south gate of the Green Zone, where it's a very dangerous area, and I had a cab take me home.

INSKEEP: And they gave you $1,500?

Mr. FADHIL: Yeah, exactly.

INSKEEP: In--What?--100-dollar bills?

Mr. FADHIL: Yes. They gave me a cash money, 1,000 for the damages of the house and $500 for the time I spent inside the Green Zone, which is very weird because at the rest of the houses that we have here in the neighborhood, they did not pay them anything, even though the damages in their house are much worse, much worse than ours.

INSKEEP: Do you believe the Americans when they tell you that they did not know who you were, that this was a case of mistaken identity?

Mr. FADHIL: I believe, yes. I believe, yes, it's a case of mistaken identity. But at the same time, I believe that I was lucky, my family was lucky, because I'm a reporter and working for foreign media.

INSKEEP: You mentioned that there are three other houses in your neighborhood that were raided at the same time and people were taken away from those houses, and they're still under arrest as far as you know.

Mr. FADHIL: Exactly. Exactly. And this is the neighborhood which is known as Gel Zaliyeh(ph). It's 10 minutes from the Baghdad international airport.

INSKEEP: If it's near the airport, then it's near an area where there have been a great many improvised explosive devices detonated, a great many Americans killed.

Mr. FADHIL: Exactly, and many numbers of Iraqis killed as well.

INSKEEP: Ali Fadhil, thank you very much.

Mr. FADHIL: No, I thank you much.

INSKEEP: Ali Fadhil is an Iraqi journalist who says that he is still waiting for US forces to return his videotape. The US Central Command says it has no information about this incident, one of two involving journalists that illuminate daily life in Iraq.

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