Two Iraqi ABC News broadcast journalists were killed in Iraq, ABC News President David Westin announced this morning.
Cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26, were returning home from work at the ABC News Baghdad bureau yesterday afternoon when their car was reportedly ambushed and they were killed by unknown assailants.
Aziz and Yousuf were traveling home when they were stopped by two cars full of gunmen and forced to exit their car. The two were unaccounted for overnight and their deaths were confirmed this morning, ABC's Terry McCarthy said.
"They are really our eyes and ears in Iraq," McCarthy said of the contribution each made to ABC News. "Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out … without them we are blind, we cannot see what's going on."
"Today we've lost two family members. It really hurts," McCarthy said.
Aziz is survived by his wife, his two daughters and his mother. Yousuf leaves behind his fiancée, his mother and brothers and sisters.
Mike Tuggle, an ABC News producer who worked with Aziz, remembers a game of pool they played on his first trip to Baghdad.
"I had some down time and got into a game of pool with Alaa. He beat me badly. Just before he hit the last ball in he looked up at me and said, 'My name is Alaa Uldeen, but you can call me Aladdin, because I have his magic on the pool table,'" Tuggle wrote in an e-mail message.
"'The balls [he rared back and hit the cue ball] they just [the cue ball touched the 8] disappear,'" Tuggle continued, "And his face lit up with that big smile of his."
Tuggle went out with Aziz several times to cover the military, the politicians, and the people of Iraq.
"In February, we were shooting a story on Iraqis getting married. Even with the bloodshed and turmoil, this hope remains that two people will live happily ever after. We shot for about 45 minutes," Tuggle wrote. "At that point I couldn't tell that anything had changed, but Alaa felt *something*. He looked at me and said, 'It is time to go. Now.' I trusted him. I don't live there and the small things that a local sees go right by me."
The two packed up and left. While Tuggle didn't hear about anything bad happening at the hotel afterwards, he believes something may have been prevented because they left.
"In Iraqi you learn to trust the people you are with," he wrote. "I am truly sorry I will not see his smile the next time I go there, that I won't be able to depend on his instinct, and that I won't have a chance to avenge my loss on the pool table."