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June 16, 2005
Did Reuters Stage 'Insurgent' Photo?

Photos of street fighting in Iraq have become so common that we hardly notice them anymore. Reuters, AP, AFP, and major American media outlets routinely run them with updated stories on attacks and bombings to give readers a visual that should match the text of the story to some degree. Those that don't match up with breaking news or analysis get run from the wire service to their customers, with a short caption as its only description.

Such a photograph caught the eye of CQ reader HJ, who noticed something odd about the fighters. Here's the original caption that goes along with this photo:

Iraqi insurgents take up positions at a crossroads in the Iraqi town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, June 16, 2005. Five U.S. marines were killed in Iraq when their vehicle struck a bomb near the violent western town of Ramadi, the U.S. military said on June 16. Its statement gave no details of Wednesday's attack but it was the second time in a week that insurgents have inflicted such a high death toll on marines in the same area in a single blast and strengthens the impression that guerrillas have developed more sophisticated bombing techniques. Photo by Stringer/Iraq/Reuters

Now here's the detail for the gunman on the right:


Here's what HJ noticed when he saw this picture:

What caught my eyes were the fact that the "insurgent" had his finger off the trigger and along the frame (excellent safety practice, but something not expected of an untrained insurgent, especially in a firefight). The second thing was that fact that he had his hand wrapped around the barrel, which would be very hot is he were actually firing it (especially during the summer in Iraq). The Machine gun in the picture is a Russian PK, which fires the powerful, long rimmed 7.62 cartridge, not the lighter intermediate round of the AK-47. Speaking as a "gun nut, firing such a machine gun in automatic while in that crouched position would put you on your rear end, with the barrel pointing towards the sky.

In short, this smells of a "staged" picture.

I'm no expert on guns, but it looks to me like HJ has a point. Reuters identifies the picture on its site as coming from a 'stringer'. At the very least, it calls into question the elaborate caption provided by Reuters with the picture. It could also mean that Reuters is paying al-Qaeda photographers for propaganda photos.

If any CQ readers with more expertise can provide insight on the question, please post your comments ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 16, 2005 12:00 PM

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» Reuters May Have Staged Insurgent Photograph from Conservative Eyes
Like Ed, I'm not a really big gun expert. This kind of threw me off. Would Reuters pay al-Qaeda for their propaganda? [Read More]

Tracked on June 16, 2005 2:27 PM

» Possible photo staging by Reuters from BlogSpy.NET
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» Staged photo? from Dadahead
I don't see it. Nothing in the caption says he was in the act of firing the gun; it merely says they were 'taking up positions'. This would explain (1) why his finger isn't on the trigger and (2) why he was holding the barrel. [Read More]

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