Al-Jazeera claims military 'cover up'
Tuesday April 8, 2003
Arabic satellite news channel al-Jazeera has accused the US of deliberately bombing its offices in Baghdad in an attempt to "cover up" its activities in Iraq.
Correspondent Majed Abdul-Hadi said his colleagues believed the bombardment was most probably deliberate.
"Astonishment, concern and fear" are gripping journalists after al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi offices were targeted, he said, as he announced the death of journalist Tareq Ayyoub on air today.
"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," Abdul-Hadi said.
The broadcaster's chief editor, Ibrahim Hilal, speaking from the station's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, said the Pentagon had been aware of the location of its offices. But he refused to say whether he believed the attack was intentional.
"Our office is in a residential area and even the Pentagon knows its location," he said.
Journalists at the station's Qatar headquarters have been shocked by the attack. They say that the Global Positioning Systems co-ordinates of all their offices had been known to the Americans because they had submitted them to the Pentagon before the war.
The US today admitted it was "a grave mistake" to bomb al-Jazeera's offices in Baghdad.
But the US state department, which issued the statement, insisted it had not deliberately targeted the Arab channel, whose offices were also bombed during the Afghanistan war.
"My personal view is that it's a mistake, a grave mistake. It is something we all regret. But I don't believe that it is possible that it was deliberate. Anyway, I said it is not a small accident. It is serious and a tragedy," said US spokesman Nabil Khouri.
Mr Khouri said a complete report on the incident was needed before reaching a conclusion on what had happened.
He offered his "deep and heartfelt condolences" to the family of Ayyoub, who died this morning after sustaining serious wounds in the bomb attack.
"We regret what happened and [we offer] special condolences to the family of the deceased," Mr Khouri said.
Several television channels have offices in the same area as al-Jazeera, which is outside the perimeter of the main press centre.
Most foreign journalists are based at the Palestine Hotel, which was also hit today, but is in a different part of the Iraqi capital.
Ayoub, a Palestinian Jordanian who had worked for the Jordan Times for the past five years, only arrived in Baghdad last week.
The broadcaster today described him as a "dear and loyal colleague" and a "martyr of duty".
It is the second time an al-Jazeera office has been in US bombing raids - during the conflict in Afghanistan the broadcaster's Kabul offices were destroyed by a US bomb.
After that attack the Pentagon claimed the compound being used by al-Jazeera had "military significance" and that it had not known it was being used by the broadcaster.