May 30, 2006

Sunday Times Retracts Atwar Bahjat Beheading Story After Bloggers Fact Check

Bumped....because one can never pat oneself on the back too many times.....

The Sunday Times has retracted their May 7th story in which they claimed they had received a video of the beheading murder of female Iraqi reporter, Atwar Bahjat. As first revealed on The Jawa Report, that video was actually of a slain Nepalese truck driver from August of 2004. Thanks to Greyhawk for following up on the retraction and commenting on it here.

Our original story is here: Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax

Times retraction: The Iraq execution video that fooled me

First note that the retraction calls the cold-blooded murder of a civilian an 'execution'. The terrorists that murdered a man by beheading and shot 11 of his co-workers on video deemed it an execution for collaboration with Zionists, Crusadors, and apostates. They use such language because it justifies their actions under Islamic law.

It's not murder, they claim, it's an execution of a criminal. Apparently, the Times agrees.

Beyond this, the fact that the Times was wrong should not take away from the fact that a man was murdered. The video still remains a disguisting reminder of the barbaric nature of the "insurgency" being waged in Iraq.

But it is also sad that the story was run without any vetting of the facts and that Ms. Bahjat's friends and family were exposed to such disgusting and gruesome video under the impression that the victim was their loved one. I was horrified watching the video the first time, I cannot even imagine my reaction if I had known the victim.

We were first made aware that the video was probably a hoax by Greyhawk of the Mudville Gazette , after he did a simple Google search and found a Wikipedia entry on Bahjat noting that she had been shot and that images of her body were available from Getty images. The same video sent to the Times had been circulating on the internet at Islamist forums--yes, Islamist forums are full of these snuff videos--as the 'Atwar Bahjat execution' and it was soon brought to my attention that the video was actually that of the murder of a man from Nepal that we had reported in 2004.

While I was away in London, I was contacted Sarah Curnow, a journalist with Australia’s Media Watch (affiliated with the Australian Broadcasting Co.), asking me to verify my accusation that the video was a hoax. She also asked me if I could provide her with a link to the original clip. Since I was away I wasn't able to help her out, but in the meantime she independently verified that our story was right.

Despite the fact that we had written to the Times (and so had other readers, including reader Dan) and told them that their story was incorrect, the Times never got back to us. Apparently, they didn't take us seriously. But thanks to Sarah Curnow, the Times has retracted the story.

Here is the relevant part of the transcript of her story as shown on Australian TV:

There was lots of internet chatter too, about whether Atwar Bahjat had been beheaded.

One blog site - The Jawa Report - said The Sunday Times had been duped.

[quote from our story]

This is the video The Jawa Report identifies.

Once again it's too gruesome to play any further.

But we've watched the video closely and it correlates exactly with the details of the murder described by The Sunday Times.

The paper won't confirm that this is the video they saw, but they stand by their story.

Here is an excerpt from the e-mail sent to Media Watch by The Sunday Times, with the note that The Times did not even respond to my e-mail to them:
It would be quite wrong to suggest that [Hala Jaber] watched a video of a Nepalese man being beheaded and imagined that he was her friend, Atwar Bahjat… This unfortunate woman was identified as Atwar Bahjat by a member of her family and a close friend who watched the video before publication of Hala Jaber's article. We stand by our story.
Go check out the rest of The Media Watch transcript, which notes that Australian media used the alleged Atwar Bahjat video for their own anti-war agenda.

In any event, the Times and Hala Jaber have now retracted their original story:

THREE weeks ago in these pages, I reported that I had seen a video recording of a friend and colleague, Atwar Bahjat, one of Iraq’s top female journalists, having her throat cut and then being decapitated.

I was mistaken. It was a hoax, and I apologise to her family for the pain I have caused them and to the many readers who were distressed by what I wrote.

The video was not of Atwar but of a Nepalese male hostage decapitated two years ago.

Notice the wording right out of The Jawa Report, including the word "hoax" to describe what had happened?

The rest of the story tells how she was duped and offers an apology. Jaber claims she believed in the veracity of the video because it had come from an insurgent group that had proved reliable in the past.

First question: if Hala Jaber has contacts with the insurgency, why is she not being interrogated? Or has the British government forgotten that it is in a shooting war with people that Hala Jaber seems to be acquainted with?

Second question: does the mere fact that you've been to Iraq, are an Arab, and have 'contacts with the insurgency' now make you an 'expert' to the mainstream media? We debunked the Jaber story within hours of learning about it. My only expertise is that I actually follow what the insurgents say by reading poorly translated statements, watching propaganda videos, and lurking on English language Islamist forums. Yet I seem to know more about the Iraqi insurgency than The Sunday Times' expert.

Last, as both Greyhawk and The Media Watch note, what is the underlying agenda of the MSM in wanting to believe this story? Jaber's original story makes a point in saying that the footage is of a 'death squad' murdering Bahjat. That is, she uses the hoax footage to illustrate a point about the 'civil war' which has erupted in Iraq:

There is a wider significance to the appalling footage and the accompanying details. The film appears to show for the first time an Iraqi death squad in action.
[emphasis mine] As we've reported on dozens and dozens of occasions, these video are common from Iraqi insurgent groups and have been so for years. Only someone complete ignorant would dare to make such a claim. Unless, of course, one somehow considers Shia 'death squads' as qualitatively different than Sunni 'insurgents'. Which, if true, also shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq since the al Sadre militias have been doing this kind of murder for years.

So, how did Jaber verify the authenticity of the video that was sent to her by a 'reliable source' in the insurgency?

I set my personal feelings aside and, for several hours, examined the horrifying footage repeatedly with my husband, a photographer hugely experienced in Iraq and in the forensic examination of videos.
[emphasis mine] So, she watched the video with her husband. It was her husband who verified the video, who happens to be a forensic video expert. Right.
A colleague in Baghdad, who had known Atwar well, also spent hours poring over the frames in the video and agreed it was her.
I didn't know Atwar Bahjat at all, but I do know what Ms. Jaber's 'contacts' in the insurgency have done and routinely do to prisoners, because I actually try to follow what they say to each other and not only what they say to dupes in the media! Using nothing more than a Google search, Greyhawk first called this a hoax!

There is more in Jaber's explanation, but it is disgusting and sick. She actually sent the video to some of Atwar Bahjat's friends & relatives asking them to verify it. Some of them emphatically claimed it could not be Bahjat, others swore it was. All of them sobbed and cried.

That's real class. Sending a video which shows someone being slowly beheaded to the friends and relatives of the victim. Excuse me, is that your sister's voice coming through the slit in that body's neck?

Disgusting. I can excuse Jaber for mistaking the victim on the video for that Atwar Bahjat, but sending it to the relatives and friends of the victim? Jaber ought to be fired for that alone.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:02 PM | Comments |

Atwar Bahjat Story Retracted: Where is MSM?

Will Hala Jaber's retraction about the Atwar Bahjat murder get as much coverage as her initial story? Don't hold your breath. So far her retraction has only been printed in two papers: The Sunday Times and The Australian.

The Guardian's online blog section also mentions the retraction, with a nod to The Jawa Report. The Guardian:

Sunday Times reporter Hala Jaber, one of Britain's most respected foreign correspondents, has admitted that she was hoaxed by a videotape she thought showed the beheading of a fellow journalist and friend....

Bahjat's TV network, Al Arabiya, immediately denied Jaber's version of events and the blog the Jawa Report linked the Nepalese video with the one seen by Jaber.

Following queries about the video, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Media Watch TV programme, Jaber wrote her follow up piece.

Compare that to the hundreds of articles that came on the heels of the initial erroneous story that Bahjat had been beheaded.

Previous: Sunday Times Retracts Atwar Bahjat Beheading Story After Bloggers Fact Check

Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 08:52 AM | Comments |

May 08, 2006

Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax (Images / Video)

****Jawa Report Exclusive****

A gruesome beheading video delivered to the Sunday Times purporting to be of slain journalist Atwar Bahjat is a hoax. On Sunday, May 7th, the Times reported that they had received a low-quality video of Atwar Bahjat being slowly beheaded. That video is now being circulated on the internet as the "Atwar Bahjat" beheading video.

The Jawa Report can reveal that the Times and Halal Jabar, the author of the article, are victims of a hoax. The video actually shows the gruesome murder of a Nepalese man by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna in Iraq from August of 2004. The man was one of 12 victims executed by the terrorist organization--the other 11 were shot (original story, video, and images of 12 Nepalese murdered in Iraq here).

The Times describes the Nepalese murder video precisely. However, the video delivered to the Times was actually a low-quality version of a much higher quality film originally made by Ansar al-Sunnah. The Times video also is edited to exclude the murder of the other 11 hostages.

The Army of Ansar al-Sunna has murdered dozens of civilians in Iraq. The organization is an offshoot of the Army of Ansar al-Islam--a Kurdish Islamist organization. The group routinely murders those suspected of collaborating with the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Before the group murders their hostages they accuse them of 'apostasy', a crime punishable by death under Islamic law. They therefore justify their murders as 'executions' for 'crimes' committed against Islam.

Halal Jabar describes the video in the Sunday Times, but leaves out that you can hear the victim gasping for breath through the hole in his severed neck:

By the time filming begins, the condemned woman has been blindfolded with a white bandage.

It is stained with blood that trickles from a wound on the left side of her head. She is moaning, although whether from the pain of what has already been done to her or from the fear of what is about to be inflicted is unclear. ...

A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat from the middle, slicing from side to side.

Her cries — “Ah, ah, ah” — can be heard above the “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.

Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.

Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.

Greyhawk tipped us to the possibility that the video delivered to the Times was not authentic. This image from Getty shows the corpse of Bahjat, apparently shot by terrorists, in February.

Soon afterward, jihadi forums began to circulate the phony video. Thanks to Baf Baf for much of the legwork in helping figure out which video the hoax had been made from.

The Times reported that the film was delivered to them by Sunni insurgents and said that it had been found on the mobile phone of a dead Shia militant. The article erroneously tries to blame Bahjat's murder on Shia militias, and uses the false video as evidence of growing civil strife in Iraq.

The video, in fact, actually shows an "infidel" being murdered by a Sunni Salaafist terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda. Related from Jeff Goldstein on why this matters. Neo-neocon as well.

Earlier report: The Bloody Murder of Muslim Jouralist Atwar Bahjat

Here is a link to the original video being circulated on jihadi discussion boards as the Atwar Bahjat beheading video (WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC). Disgusting, cruel, and graphic images from it are posted below.

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UPDATE: Just for the sake of clarity, Bahjat was murdered in a cruel way. The fact that this video is a hoax should not distract us from that fact. Whoever murdered her deserves the severist punishment available. [And by 'hoax' I do not mean to imply the video is fake, only its attribution. For some reason some Islamist scumbag thought it would be funny/scary/useful to send out an old video and label it 'Bahjat'.]
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UPDATE 2: Al Arabiya (Arabic) is now confirming the tape was a hoax (via Abu Aardvark).
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UPDATE 3: Ogrish now reporting same.
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UPDATE 4: Here is a translated version of the al Arabiya article. Bahjat was a reporter for al Arabiya. It claims that the Atwar Bahjat hoax video is for sale on CD-ROM on the Baghdad streets:

It was published this tape in Arabic forums on the Internet, as well as news of the British newspaper quoted several Arab newspapers. The sources also stated that the tape recording sold on CD-ROM in the streets of Baghdad.
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UPDATE 5: I don't know how I overlooked this, but apparantly The Jawa Report's Mike Pechar had been on this from the beginning. From our February post on Atwar Bahjat's murder:
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found by their vehicle near the town of Dawr. Notably, by all indications, these journalists were specifically targeted.
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Why do we show these images? So you can see the cruel and barbaric deeds of the enemies we fight in Iraq and around the globe.

The Western press has no problem with showing you the misdeeds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq--misdeeds that are punished--but will not show you what our enemies are like. The hypocrisy of a media which has no problem characterizing prisoner abuse as 'torture'--- and endlessly publishes photos of a woman laughing at nude prisoners---but refuses to show you what our enemies routinely do to prisoners. Torture them, murder them, and behead them.

WARNING: DO NOT PROCEED. GRAPHIC IMAGES.

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WARNING: DO NOT PROCEED. GRAPHIC IMAGES.

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These are images from the Atwar Bahjat beheading video hoax. Who would be so disgusting as to wish us to believe the journalist was beheaded this way?

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Here are images from our original report about the hostages from Nepal being murdered. Clearly, the two are the same.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:35 PM | Comments |