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Fri Oct 9, 2020, 09:25 AM

An American journalist was murdered in Turkey. Why didn't the US investigate?


Turkey says the Barakats were killed in a family dispute. Others aren't so sure.

ByFariba Nawa, James Gordon Meek, Aaron Glantz, Pete Madden, and Chris Harland-Dunaway

October 9, 2020, 6:07 AM

Halla Barakat and her mother, Orouba Barakat, devoted their lives to dangerous work. Halla, 23, was a reporter working for two news outlets in Turkey, where she covered the civil war in Syria that had forced millions of refugees to flee across the border. Orouba, 62, was a journalist-turned-activist, a fierce critic of ISIS and of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and an active member of the Istanbul-based opposition to his regime.

Halla’s star was rising. She had recently worked on a human rights investigation for ABC News. Orouba, meanwhile, was already well known as a regularly fiery guest on Arab television, commenting on the latest news from her native Syria, often with unrestrained passion.

“(The Arab world) knows that this regime is a criminal regime,” Orouba told Al Arabiya in 2012. “Bashar al-Assad said, ‘My father taught Syrians a lesson for 30 years … and I will do the same for a hundred years.’ And I will respond to him: ‘Screw you!’”

When the Barakats were killed in September 2017 in a brutal double murder in Istanbul that sparked headlines around the world, their family, friends and colleagues suspected that their work may have threatened powerful figures with the motive and means to silence them.

Their throats cut. Their bodies covered with blankets. Their blood-spattered apartment doused in laundry detergent, a way to hide the smell of decomposition and delay the discovery of the bodies. And no one in their quiet residential neighborhood reported hearing the sounds of a struggle. The scene, to many observers, suggested the work of a professional. Halla was an American citizen – born while Orouba was visiting relatives in North Carolina – who had worked for a U.S. media outlet. So two U.S. lawmakers from the state, Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. David Price, soon called for a thorough investigation of that very possibility. H.R. McMaster, then a senior member of the Trump administration, even invited a member of the family, Suzanne Barakat, to the White House, where, she said, intelligence officials and diplomats assured her that the case was a priority.


What's that about Kayla Mueller again, Mike?

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