A U.S. journalist in Syria—one of the last to report in English from rebel-held territory—was the apparent target of a drone strike on June 26, and while the perpetrator is currently unknown, a British advocacy group is blaming his own government.
“We do not know at this stage which country is responsible for the drone attack, but it is believed that Russia, Iran, the U.K. and the U.S. have been operating UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the region,” Moazzem Begg, a former unjustly detained inmate at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, said in a statement released by CAGE, a group that advocates on behalf of communities affected by the U.S.-led war on terror.
Still, while the party responsible is unknown, “The fact remains that the United States has set an example of impunity when it comes to drone strikes,” said Begg, “and other countries are following suit.”In a video posted on his Facebook page, journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, originally from New York, can be seen in front of the wreckage of a bombed car outside the city of Aleppo.
“It must have been some kind of Hellfire missile. I heard nothing coming in,” Abdul Kareem recounts in the video. He was traveling in another car as part of a convoy, on his way to interview a rebel leader, and credits a bullet proof vest with saving his life—if not his “favorite camera,” which was destroyed in the attack.
“All I know and remember is that we were sitting in the car, waiting for someone to meet us, so that we could film a program, ‘Face the Truth,’ and then all of a sudden everything went black,” Abdul Kareem says.
There were no fatalities.
On June 29, however, airstrikes targeting Abdul Kareem's media center killed three civilians.
In the statement from CAGE, Begg argued that—whoever is directly responsible for these attacks—“Targeting journalists in this way is a war crime.”
“Bilal is one of the only accredited journalists in Syria reporting in English on the ground,” Begg stated. “His material has been widely used by mainstream media and he has become a powerful voice for the voiceless in the Syrian war.”
In the same statement, a defiant Abdul Kareem pledged to continue his work.
“I don’t care if you like Nusra, Assad or Obama,” he said. “I only bring you the news so you can make an informed decision. I don’t see a lot of other journalists around. I plan to continue doing the work we are doing. I’m not going to roll over and play dead for anybody.”