French, Kurdish journalists killed in Mosul blast

Two journalists have died following a blast in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its national Stephane Villeneuve was killed by a mine blast while on assignment for the France 2 television network.

The explosion also killed Kurdish journalist Bakhtiar Haddad, according to watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), and injured two others.

“We offer our condolences to (Villeneuve’s) family, whose pain we share,” the ministry said in a statement. “His courage and professionalism made him a respected journalist and admired by all those with whom he worked.”

Deadly arena

RSF said the men were killed while accompanying Iraqi army forces in areas held by ISIS in the Ras Al-Jadah district of Mosul, in northern Iraq.

“Iraq is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“In 2015 and 2016, it was one of the three countries where the most journalists were killed in the course of their work. War is obviously dangerous but every death or injury is a victim too many. No one should have to pay such a high price just for reporting the news.”

The group said a total of 26 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2014, with at least three dying since the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS began in October 2016.

Ten Iraqi journalists and media workers are also being held by ISIS forces in Mosul, according to RSF.

Residents at risk

Fighting to retake Mosul is still ongoing, with Iraqi forces saying late last month they were launching a large-scale operation to push ISIS forces out of their remaining footholds in the city.

Mosul’s Old City is still largely held by the militant group, and has been heavily shelled in preparation of clearance operations.

The fighting has caused the displacement of more than 700,000 people since the offensive began, and the United Nations migration agency has warned the number of people fleeing the city has soared in recent weeks.

“Although the UN is not present in the areas where fighting is occurring, we have received very disturbing reports of families being shut inside booby-trapped homes and of children being deliberately targeted by snipers,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien said last month, adding that residents lacked access to clean water and medicine.