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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Witness recalls day of Nagai shooting

Staff writer

Photojournalist Adrees Latif, who took pictures of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai after he was gunned down last year in Myanmar by a junta soldier during a crackdown on demonstrators, on Monday recounted events leading up to the killing.

News photo
Adrees latif shows a series of his pictures during a news conference Monday in Tokyo, including one image that captured Kenji Nagai lying on the ground after he was fatally shot in Yangon last September. KAZUAKI NAGATA PHOTO

During a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Latif also showed a series of photographs, including one that captured Nagai still holding his video camera even after he had collapsed to the ground after being shot.

Around 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2007, Latif positioned himself on a bridge in Yangon to get a clear view of the demonstration.

Below him, a few thousand protesters had gathered, singing and waving flags. They were throwing things like water bottles and food at two approaching dark green open army troop trucks followed by police.

Within 15 seconds after the trucks arrived, the soldiers opened fire, Latif said.

Witnessing the scene through his 135 mm lens, he tried to focus on the unfolding events and "instinctively" pointed the camera and captured four frames of someone collapsed on the ground, not knowing then that it was Nagai, who had just been shot.

He said he saw the person "falling backward," although he did not see the man actually being shot.

"Initially, I thought he was merely trampled," said Latif, a photographer at Reuters' Bangkok bureau. "I certainly had no idea he was dead."

It wasn't until he ran to the relative cover of a bus shelter and checked his pictures that he realized the person had been shot.

Nagai was shot by a member of Myanmar's security force while covering the protest rally. Japan determined that Nagai was shot at close range. Myanmar's junta leaders insist the shooting was "accidental."

Latif's photographs, "Myanmar Marooned," recently won a special award by Japan's photojournalism magazine Days Japan, which held a ceremony Saturday.

Latif also met Nagai's relatives Friday and told them what he saw when the shooting took place.

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The Japan Times

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