The Arab satellite television
channel al-Jazeera is to pull its reporters out of Iraq after one of
them was killed during a US air raid on Baghdad.
"I cannot guarantee anyone's
safety," the news editor, Ibrahim Hillal, told reporters. "We
still have four reporters in Baghdad, we will pull them out. We have
one embedded with US forces in Nassiriya; we want to pull him out."
The move followed a day in
which three journalists were killed by US fire in separate attacks
in Baghdad, leading to accusations that US forces were targeting the
Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk,
35, was killed when an American tank fired a shell directly at the
Reuters suite on the 15th floor at the Palestine hotel, where many
journalists are staying.
Jose Couso, 37, a cameraman
for the Spanish television channel Tele 5, was wounded in the same
attack and died later in hospital. Samia Nakhoul, the Gulf bureau chief
of Reuters, was also injured, along with a British technician, Paul
Pasquale, and an Iraqi photographer, Faleh Kheiber.
Earlier, al-Jazeera cameraman
Tarek Ayyoub, a 35-year-old Palestinian who lived in Jordan, was killed
when two bombs dropped during a US air raid hit the satellite station's
office in the Iraqi capital.
American forces also opened
fire on the offices of Abu Dhabi television, whose identity is spelled
out in large blue letters on the roof.
All the journalists were killed
and injured in daylight at locations known to the Pentagon as media
sites. The tank shell that hit the Palestine hotel slammed into the
18-storey building at noon, shaking the tower and spewing rubble and
dirt into hotel rooms at least six floors below.
The attack brought pandemonium
in the hotel which lies on the east side of the Tigris. It was adopted
by all remaining western journalists in the city after advice from
the Pentagon to evacuate from the western side of the river.
Central command in Qatar said
its troops had been responding in self-defence to enemy fire but witnesses
dismissed that claim as false. According to a central command statement, "commanders
on the ground reported that coalition forces received significant enemy
fire from the hotel and consistent with the inherent right of self-defence,
coalition forces returned fire".
The statement added: "Sadly
a Reuters and Tele 5 journalist were killed in this exchange. These
tragic incidents appear to be the latest example of the Iraqi regime's
continued strategy of using civilian facilities for military purposes."
But journalists in the hotel
insisted there had been no Iraqi fire.
Sky's correspondent, David
Chater, said: "I never heard a single shot coming from the area
around here, certainly not from the hotel," he said.
BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar
added that none of the other journalists in the hotel had heard any
Chater said he saw a US tank
pointing its gun at the hotel and turned away just before the blast. "I
noticed one of the tanks had its barrel pointed up at the building.
We went inside and there was an almighty crash. That tank shell, if
it was an American tank shell, was aimed directly at this hotel and
directly at journalists. This wasn't an accident. It seems to be a
very accurate shot."
Geert Linnebank, Reuters editor-in-chief,
said the incident "raises questions about the judgment of the
advancing US troops who have known all along that this hotel is the
main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad".
Journalists, a watchdog group
that defends press freedoms, demanded an invesigation in a letter to
the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. "We believe these attacks
violate the Geneva conventions," the letter said, adding that
even if US forces had been fired on from the Palestine hotel "the
evidence suggests that the response of US forces was disproportionate
and therefore violated humanitarian law".
During the Afghan war, two
supposedly smart US bombs hit the Reuters office in Kabul and many
suspect the attack was no accident. It happened at a strategic moment,
two hours before the Northern Alliance took over the city.
US military officials at central
command said they were investigating and added that the casualties
"We know that we don't target journalists," said Brigadier
General Vince Brooks, deputy director of operations.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek
Ayyoub was broadcasting live to the satellite station's 7am news bulletin
when US aircraft fired two missiles at the bureau building, killing
him and injuring a colleague. Two Iraqi staff are missing.
Ibrahim Hilal, al-Jazeera's
chief editor at its headquarters in Qatar, said a US warplane was seen
above the building before the attack. "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 said.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Majed
Abdul-Hadi said the bombardment was probably deliberate.
In Doha last night al-Jazeera's
chairman, Hamad bin Thamer, said the channel "could not ascertain"
if its Baghdad bureau had been targeted by the US. But he dismissed American
claims that there had been gunfire coming from the building at the time
of the attack.
"This was absolutely
and categorically denied by other reporters and our reporters present
on the ground," he said.
Mr Ayyoub, 35, a Palestinian
born in Kuwait, had not intended to go to Baghdad but as the war dragged
on he felt he had to work there, and al-Jazeera agreed to let him work
His widow, Dima Ayyoub, launched
a vitriolic attack on America: "My message to you is that hatred
breeds hatred," she said in a live telephone link-up from her
home in Amman, Jordan. "I cannot see where is the cleanness in
this war. All I see is blood, destruction and shattered hearts. The
US said it was a war against terrorism. Who is committing terrorism
THE IRAQI BODY COUNT DATABASE