An Iraqi translator working for CBS News was abducted from his home in Baghdad and murdered. Anwar Abbas Lafta becomes the third CBS News employee killed in Iraq and underscores the continuing costs to news organizations that cover the war.
In May 2006, soundman James Brolin and cameraman Paul Douglas, both British nationals with years of war reporting experience, were killed during an attack on the Fourth Infantry Division. Correspondent Kimberly Dozier was severely injured in the same attack.
Abbas left the CBS Baghdad bureau at about 5 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 20. Shortly after he arrived home that evening, there was a knock on the door.
“Anwar’s brother went to answer, and the answer he got when he opened it was a rifle butt smashed in his face,” wrote Lara Logan, CBS News chief foreign correspondent, on CBSNews.com.
Approximately 8 to 10 armed men entered the home and fought with Abbas. His brother was beaten, his sister was shot in the arm and, after a struggle, Abbas was taken by the men.
The family received two ransom calls last week. On Saturday, local police informed the family that a body was found on the north side of Sadr City.
Abbas was buried Monday in Najaf.
Logan described Abbas as “well-liked and well-respected in his community.” He “spoke fast, loved to talk” and had a weakness for vintage French films.
“Anwar always told me he was not afraid,” Logan wrote. “He always spoke his mind. He did not run from confrontation. And he had no illusions about the state of his country.”
Abbas worked as a translator for the U.S. military in Iraq for three years before joining CBS News ten months ago.
“He had a great respect and affection for many of the soldiers he knew, while still being highly critical of what he saw as America’s mistakes, and its failure to truly understand Iraqi culture,” she continued. “So when I heard that Anwar resisted his kidnappers, and was still fighting as they forced him into one of their unmarked white Land Cruiser vehicles waiting outside, it did not surprise me.”
More than 112 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 40 media support workers have been killed. Abbas is No. 41.
Iraq is one of the bloodiest wars in history for journalists. Western journalists don't go anywhere without a cadre of heavily armed security guards. American news organizations in turn rely heavily on Iraqi journalists, who then become prime targets for insurgent death squads who view their countrymen as traitors. And while their Western colleagues are confined in tightly secured news bureaus, most Iraqi hires go home after a day in the field, leaving them in constant peril.
“Our deepest sympathies go to Mr. Abbas’ family and friends,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, in a statement. “This is not the first time the CBS News family has suffered the worst loss possible—the life of a colleague. We certainly hope it is the last, but the pain and sorrow will be with us and his family for a very long time.”