Release of prisoners in Iraq raises hope for kidnapped US journalist; Iraqi cameraman allegedly killed in US air strike
An Iraqi cameraman was killed as he was filming an attack by Sunni fighters on two buildings used by US troops in the town of Ramadi on Tuesday. Eyewitnesses said that the man, identified as Mahmoud Za'al, was wounded in the leg and moments later killed by a US aerial attack.
Za'al, according to Reuters, worked for the Baghdad Satellite Channel, owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's largest Sunni political group.
Witnesses claim that gunmen used attacked the governorate directorate building and the Iraqi Nationality Department with mortar rounds, grenades and machinegun fire.
"When they got very close to these buildings, helicopters and other military planes started shooting at them," one witness said, adding, "The cameraman was in the streets to film the clashes when he was wounded, first in his legs, and then when U.S. planes started shooting he was killed."
US officials denied that they had attacked Ramadi on Tuesday, saying only that they has bombed an area within the city's vicinity the previous day, and caused no injuries.
424 prisoners released from US custody
424 Iraqi prisoners held by US forces in Iraq, including five female prisoners whose freedom was demanded as a condition for the release of American journalist Jill Carroll, will be released on Thursday.
"Five of the six women detainees will be among them. The five have completed their legal procedures, so will be released," said one spokesman, according to Reuters.
According to US officials, the women are among eight female Iraqis in US custody in Iraq for terror related activities. US officials have stressed that they do not negotiate with kidnappers.
Carroll's kidnappers had threatened to kill her by last Friday unless the US met their demands and released the women.
The journalist had been abducted on January 7 in Baghdad along with her translator, who has since been killed.
Carroll's family, along with many Muslim leaders, called for her immediate release, stressing her vocal criticism of US policy in Iraq and support for Iraqi freedom.
No public word has been released since then regarding Carroll's wellbeing.
US security forces are currently holding some 14,000 male prisoners in Iraq.
According to US officials, troops attempt to avoid the arrest of women in almost all cases, as the detention of women raises religious concern in Iraq.
Last week, the US released 500 prisoners from their custody in Iraq.