BAGHDAD - Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub was killed on Tuesday during a U.S. air raid on Baghdad, the Arab satellite television channel said.
The Qatar-based network said Ayoub, a Jordanian national, died in hospital after he was wounded in a bomb strike on Jazeera's office near the Information Ministry.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayub in Baghdad. Ayub died of his injuries following a US missile strike on the station's Baghdad offices today, the Arabic news channel reported.(AFP/AL JAZEERA)
Another member of Jazeera's Baghdad crew, Zohair al-Iraqi, was slightly wounded. Reuters correspondent Samia Nakhoul had earlier said U.S. planes were bombing targets near the ministry.
"We regret to inform you that our cameraman and correspondent Tarek Ayoub was killed this morning during the U.S. missile strike on our Baghdad office," Jazeera said in a statement read out during its news bulletin.
"He is a martyr," it said. The network regularly refers to Iraqi civilians killed in the 20-day U.S.-led war as "martyrs."
At least six journalists have died while covering the war being waged by the United States and Britain to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Jazeera, one of the most watched channels in the Arab world, has been criticized by U.S. and British officials for showing images of slain Western soldiers and U.S. prisoners of war.
Jazeera's Baghdad correspondent Majed Abdel Hadi called the U.S. missile strike and Ayoub's death a "crime."
"I will not be objective about this because we have been dragged into this conflict," he said, visibly upset. "We were targeted because the Americans don't want the world to see the crimes they are committing against the Iraqi people."
U.S. Central Command in Qatar said it was investigating reports of Ayoub's death.
"Central Command has repeatedly warned media representatives that Baghdad would be a dangerous place to be if the coalition engaged the Iraqi regime in combat," it said in a statement.
Shortly after the blast at the Jazeera office, four Reuters staff and a Spanish cameraman were wounded by an explosion at a Baghdad hotel used by the foreign media.
Jazeera and fellow Arab network Abu Dhabi TV are the only two international channels with their own offices in Baghdad.
Abu Dhabi TV had earlier showed footage of a huge fire blazing from the Jazeera office. Jazeera correspondent Tayseer Alouni, who made his name covering the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, was seen carrying the wounded Ayoub into a car.
"One missile hit the pavement in front of us, ripping out windows and doors and then one hit the generator," said Maher Abdullah, another Jazeera correspondent.
Jazeera's graphic images of the U.S.-led war on Iraq have mesmerized millions of Arab viewers, who regard its coverage as more comprehensive and balanced than that of Western media.
Some U.S. and British officials, however, say the network is biased in favor of Iraq. Some media analysts have accused Jazeera of airing Iraqi propaganda to gain exclusive footage -- a charge the network denies.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied in the West Bank's largest city Nablus to protest against the death of the Ayoub.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction released a statement condemning what it called the "assassination" of Ayoub. "It was a deliberate targeting of the al-Jazeera office...This crime aims to assassinate the opinion and the word of journalists."
Eight-year-old Jazeera rose to prominence in the West by broadcasting exclusive comments by Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Alouni was one of only a few international correspondents allowed to operate under the aegis of the now defunct Taliban. Jazeera's office was one of the first targets hit when the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance fighters routed the Taliban.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd