Al Jazeera a casualty of war for a second time

The offices of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari news channel, in Baghdad, were hit on Tuesday by a US raid on the Iraqi capital, injuring several of its correspondents and killing reporter Tareq Ayoub, a spokesperson for the news channel told Arabian Business.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  April 8, 2003

The offices of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari news channel, in Baghdad, were hit on Tuesday in a US raid on the Iraqi capital, injuring several of its correspondents and killing reporter Tareq Ayoub, a spokesperson for the news channel told Arabian Business. This is a similar attack to the one Al Jazeera sustained in Afghanistan when the US launched its offensive on the Taliban.

“Yes our office in Baghdad was hit,” said Jihad Balloud, spokesperson for the network, whose office is located in a residential area of Baghdad.

Asked immediately after the attack if there were any fatalities, Balloud said, “We are not so sure yet. There are at least injuries, but there is talk about fatalities.”

Despite the attack Al Jazeera was still on the air and broadcasting from the Iraqi capital. The news channel said the attack would not affect its ability to cover the US led war on Iraq. Earlier Balloud said, “Yes we are still operational. The attack shouldn’t affect our coverage we have eleven people down there right now, but this is not the issue right now, we are talking about the life of a colleague.”

Hours after the attack Tarek Ayoub, a reporter for Al Jazeera died from wounds he sustained as he was being rushed to a hospital. Al Jazeera broadcast live footage of Ayoub being carried by colleagues in a blanket to a vehicle of a rival Arabic-language network Abu Dhabi television to take him to the hospital.

Ayoub in his early thirties previously worked for the Jordan Times, and the Associated Press television. Ayoub's death brings the death toll of journalists in the US led war on Iraq to eleven.

Journalists that have died since the outbreak of war include: Tareq Ayoub, Al-Jazeera cameraman, Terry Lloyd, ITN correspondent, Paul Moran, freelance Australian cameraman, Kaveh Golestan, freelance BBC cameraman, Michael Kelly American journalist and Washington Post columnist, Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, BBC translator, Gaby Rado, Channel 4 News foreign affairs correspondent, David Bloom, NBC TV correspondent, Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian television cameraman for Reuters, Julio Anguita Parrado, reporter for Spain's El Mundo, and Christian Liebig, a journalist for Germany's Focus weekly. Five journalists are also missing.

Another Al Jazeera journalist, Tayseer Alouni, who was in the building, hit in the attack, said that one of the missiles struck an electrical generator and the other landed just outside the building.

When asked if Al Jazeera believed the attack was a coincidence or intentional Balloud said, “No comment, all we are saying is that it was hit by American fire.”

U.S. Defense Department officials told MSNBC's Pentagon correspondent, that the Baghdad office of Al-Jazeera wasn't a military target.

Commenting on the US attack on Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad, a senior American advisor to a Gulf state, speaking on condition of anonymity, floated the following question: “Aren’t the Al-Jazeera people becoming a little paranoid about the US being “out to get them?” and then answered, “We know they are paranoid -- the relevant question is, ‘Are they paranoid enough?’ and then said “Well, they used to be paranoid — they thought that the US was out to get them— now, they know that the US is out to get them.”

Al Jazeera, which is broadly watched in the Arab world, has come under strong attack from U.S. and British officials for showing images of captured prisoners of war and corpses of dead American and British soldiers.

The U.S. government’s concern that Al-Jazeera’s reporting was inaccurately reflecting American foreign policy prompted Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East William Burns, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be interviewed on the news channel throughout the last year.

The US has repeatedly criticised the news channel over the past two years because of airtime Al Jazeera gave to commentators who attacked American views or criticised U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Specifically, the U.S. government was angered when Al-Jazeera broadcast an unconfirmed report that Taliban forces had captured U.S. Special Forces troops inside Afghanistan in 2001. American displeasure grew when the news channel aired videotapes of Osama bin Laden, which it said carried coded messages to Al Qaeda operatives.

The Kabul office of the Arab satellite channel, which was founded in 1996 with a start-up grant of US$140 million from the Qatari government, was destroyed in November 2001 by a U.S. missile.

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