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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 12:54 GMT
Cameraman details Falluja killing
Residents pick through the rubble of a house destroyed in Falluja
The US operation in Falluja reduced much of the city to rubble
The freelance TV cameraman who filmed a US marine allegedly shooting dead an injured Iraqi fighter in Falluja has given his account of what he saw.

Kevin Sites, who was working for US network NBC, published an open letter to the marines on his weblog.

The dead man was one of five fighters injured and disarmed in the previous day's fighting and had made no movement before he was shot, he said.

The US military has launched an inquiry into the incident.

Sites, an embedded journalist, writes that "aside from breathing" he did not observe "any movement at all" from the man who was shot.

He had entered the building, a mosque, with a squad of marines who were checking over a district fought for the previous day.

Sites is at pains to explain that he is an experienced war reporter and searches for mitigating circumstances to explain the shooting. However, he concludes:

"I do not know what was in the mind of that marine. He is the only one who does."

'Faking it'

The cameraman's squad had received reports that the mosque might have been reoccupied overnight when it approached on Saturday 13 November.

If you accept less, then less is what you'll become
Kevin Sites

Field commanders knew that 10 fighters had been killed and five wounded there on the Friday.

As the squad followed by Sites was going into the mosque, they heard gunfire from inside and other marines emerged. One indicated that they had just found five people inside and shot them.

On entering the building, the marines found the five men wounded the previous day with four of them freshly injured. One had already died and three were bleeding to death, Sites recalls.

A fifth man lay partially covered by a blanket and was in the same place and condition he had been left in. He had not been shot again, Sites says.

While an officer was radioing to battalion HQ that the men were those wounded on Friday, a marine noticed that "the old man in the red kaffiyeh" was still alive.

Swearing, he called out that the man was "faking", pointed his rifle and shot him, though there had been "no sudden movements, no reaching, no lunging", Sites writes in his weblog


Sites says the marine could have legitimately believed the man posed a danger but did not enable a comrade to search for weapons or booby traps more safely.

Furthermore, the squad was the second one to enter the mosque, increasing the likelihood the wounded had been disarmed and the site made safe.

He says he showed his video to the unit's commanding officer "and its impact rippled all the way up the chain of command".

Sites says the decision to broadcast was "agonising" and that his NBC report highlighted "every possible mitigating issue".

Shocked that he should be portrayed as an anti-war activist, he argues that the US marines had built their "proud reputations on fighting for freedoms like the one that allows me to do my job".

"Both the leaders and the grunts [soldiers] in the field like you understand that if you lower your standards, if you accept less, then less is what you'll become," the cameraman adds.

The unidentified soldier involved in the shooting has since been removed from the field and faces possible charges.

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Sky News Cameraman Defends Fallujah Footage - 48 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Falluja cameraman breaks silence - 52 hrs ago
Independent 'Something was not right': Cameraman goes public on video footage of marines - 60 hrs ago
FOXNews.com Witness: Shot Iraqi Didn't Move - 69 hrs ago
USA Today NBC journalist says wounded Iraqi in video made no movements - 22 Nov 2004
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