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American Dream spills blood

Doha, April 9 (Reuters): Forget life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, says the widow of al Jazeera journalist Tarek Ayub who died in a US air raid on Baghdad. For her, the American Dream has brought “blood, destruction and shattered hearts”.

Tears glistened in the eyes of Ayub’s colleagues at the Arabic language satellite television channel yesterday as the grieving young woman spoke by telephone to a news conference from her home in Amman, Jordan.

It was a public show of sorrow. And fury. “My message to you is that from hatred grows more hatred,” Dima said.

“My husband died trying to reveal the truth to the world,” she said. “Please do not try to conceal it, not for the sake of American policy, not for the sake of British policy.”

US Central Command said its forces in Iraq had come under “significant enemy fire” early yesterday from the building in Baghdad where the Qatar-based network had set up its office, and the American forces had returned fire in self-defence.

In a separate incident, two cameramen, one from Reuters and one from Spanish television, were killed after a US tank fired a single shell at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, where many Western journalists are based.

The US expressed regret for both incidents. Jazeera, one of the most popular Arab channels, has been criticised by US and British officials for showing images of slain Western soldiers and US prisoners of war.

“We cannot ascertain whether this was a deliberate attack on our reporter,” said Jazeera chairman Hamad Bin Thamir-al Thani. “But I would like to remind you that our bureau in Kabul was targeted in the Afghanistan war two years ago.”

He said the network’s reporters and other journalists at the site were clear that there had been no firing from the building before it came under attack from the air. Jazeera said that a month before the war began it sent a letter to the Pentagon giving a precise location for its Baghdad office, right down to the longitude, latitude and elevation.

Jazeera officials said prayers in memory of their colleague on a lawn at the network’s Doha headquarters. Then they ran a video, set to stirring music, which showed the 35-year-old reporter/producer at work on the Baghdad battlefield.

Founded in 1995, Jazeera rose to prominence in the West by airing exclusive comments by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US which Washington blames on him.

Its graphic images of the US-led war on Iraq have mesmerised millions of Arab viewers, who regard its coverage as more comprehensive and balanced than that of Western media.

Jazeera said the killing of Ayub was not the first time it had been “a direct target during its coverage of the Iraq war”. It said its correspondent in the north of the country had been apprehended early on in the conflict by Kurdish militia, its office in the southern city of Basra hit by a missile and one of its vehicles, although clearly marked, had come under fire at a US checkpoint in Baghdad.

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