(AP) Al-Jazeera reported one of its journalists was killed Tuesday when the satellite television network’s Baghdad office was struck during a U.S. bombing campaign. Employees speculated that the station was targeted for its war coverage.
The station described journalist Tareq Ayyoub as ?martyr of duty? and a ?dear and loyal colleague.? Television images showed people immediately after the bombing carrying Ayyoub to a jeep then rushing him to the hospital.
The Arabic-language channel also showed footage of its cameraman, Zuhair al-Iraqi, whose chest was covered in blood. The network’s Web site said he had shrapnel in his neck, and a colleague later said his injuries were not life-threatening. Technician Mohammed al-Salha, who was thought to be missing, was later located and was said to be fine.
The Abu Dhabi TV office in Baghdad also was targeted by U.S. bombing, the station reported. Officials at Abu Dhabi TV were not available for comment.
Nabil Khoury, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Doha, said the strike on the Arab satellite TV network’s office was a mistake, and he called upon al-Jazeera not to jump to conclusions. ?My personal view is that it is a mistake, a grave mistake. It is something we all regret,? Khoury said. ?I personally cannot imagine that a country which respects general freedoms can target media establishments.?
The al-Jazeera office is in a two-story house on a road along the Tigris River that links the Information Ministry with the old palace presidential compound. Al-Jazeera said the area is residential and isn’t close to governmental or military installations. The station continued to broadcast live from the Palestine Hotel after the bombing.
Some Al-Jazeera employees felt the bombing might have been deliberate, for the station has been reporting extensively on the plight of Iraqi civilians and the number of casualties from U.S. bomb attacks.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Majed Abdul-Hadi said ?astonishment, concern, and fear? were gripping journalists after al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi offices were targeted.
?We are witnesses to what is happening. We are not a party,? Abdul-Hadi said, speaking in the Iraqi capital. ?The killing of colleague Tareq Ayyoub and the bombardment of the al-Jazeera office is to cover up the great crime which the Iraqi people are subjected to at the hands of the United States.?
Chief editor Ibrahim Hilal, speaking from the station’s headquarters in Doha, said witnesses ?saw the plane fly over twice before dropping the bombs. Our office is in a residential area and even the Pentagon knows its location.?
He refused to comment on whether he thought the attack was intentional.
British spokesman Group Capt. Al Lockwood, speaking to Al-Jazeera from the U.S. Central Command in Qatar, said the attacks on journalists ?appear to be a terrible tragedy? and would be investigated.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, appearing outside the Palestine Hotel, home to the international press covering the war on Iraq, said coalition forces were targeting civilian areas.
?They bombed residential areas. They bombed Al-Jazeera. They are in a state of hysteria and haste. They imagine that by killing civilians, they’ll win. These villains will not win,? he said outside the hotel, which also was fired upon by U.S. forces.
Ayyoub, the slain journalist, was expelled from Jordan in August 2002 after al-Jazeera broadcast a program that criticized the kingdom and the ruling family’s stance toward Palestinians and Iraq. He was an economics correspondent at the time and did not appear to be involved in that report.
In its 2002 annual report, Reporters Without Borders complained that Ayyoub was one of two reporters detained in Jordan in May 2001 while covering an anti-Israeli demonstration there. He was soon released.
In November 2002, Al-Jazeera’s office in Kabul, Afghanistan, was destroyed by a U.S. missile. None of the crew was at the office at the time. U.S. officials said they believed the target was a terrorist site and did not know it was Al-Jazeera’s office.