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WAR IN THE GULF : CARNAGE; Three TV men killed in hotel; Allies deny targeting media.

Byline: BOB DOW

ALLIED top brass were yesterday forced to deny the media covering the Iraq war had been targeted after three TV cameramen were killed.

The latest deaths mean at least 11 journalists and media staff have died during the conflict. Several others are missing.

Two of yesterday's victims died after an American tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

A single shell hit the 14th floor of the building, home to most of the foreign media.

Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk, 35, who was working for Reuters news agency, and Spaniard Jose Couso, 37, later died.

British satellite TV worker Paul Pasquale was among four others injured.

Earlier, Jordanian journalist Tareq Ayyoub was killed in an air strike on the Baghdad offices of controversial Qatar- based satellite TV station Aljazeera.

Two missiles almost completely destroyed the building.

The nearby office of Abu Dhabi TV was also hit, leaving at least one person wounded.

A US State Department spokesman described the attack as a "grave mistake".

And American commanders claimed snipers had shot at troops from the roof of the Palestine Hotel. Spokesman Brigadier General Vince Brooks said: "Initial reports indicate that the coalition forces operating near the hotel took fire from the lobby of the hotel and returned fire.

"Any civilian loss of life we find most unfortunate."

He also suggested Iraqis had been using journalists as human shields. But Reuters editor- in-chief Geert Linnebank said the hotel attack "raises questions about the judgment of advancing US troops".

Aljazeera chief Ibrahim Hilal refused to comment on the attacks but there was a furious reaction in Arab countries.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said: "The targeting of news media people in Baghdad today confirms that the attacking forces are deliberately intimidating and terrorising the journalists to prevent them from transmitting the truth."

One Arab source said the Aljazeera attack mirrored a November 2002 US missile strike on the station's Kabul office during the Afghan conflict.

He added: "At the Pentagon, they boast they have smart bombs. Either they're giving the smart bombs to stupid people or they're dropping them on purpose."

One of the first journalists to die covering the Iraq war was ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd, 50, thought to be a victim of "friendly fire".

Lloyd was travelling towards Basra with cameramen Fred Nerac and Daniel Demoustier and translator Hussein Osman when their vehicles were hit on March 22.

Demoustier escaped but Lloyd was killed. Nerac and Osman are still missing.

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson was wounded on Sunday when a US jet bombed a convoy of US and Kurdish forces.

A total of 21 people were killed.

The International Federation of Journalists has accused both sides of endangering media staff.

A spokeswoman said the death toll had been unusually high.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 9, 2003
Words:464
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