Alouni rebuts US version of hotel attack

An Aljazeera reporter has told a Spanish judge that there was no Iraqi resistance in or around Baghdad's Palestine Hotel when two cameramen were killed in a US attack.

    The Palestine Hotel attack outraged journalists worldwide

    Taysir Alouni, accused by judge Baltasar Garzon of belonging to

    al-Qaida, was giving evidence in a preliminary inquest into the

    death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso.

    The cameraman was killed along with a Ukrainian

    colleague from Reuters television when US tanks fired on the hotel

    on 8 April.

    "I am one of the only journalists to have gone right round the

    hotel and there was no resistance," Alouni told

    judge Guillermo Ruiz Polanco on Tuesday.

    'American message' 

    Washington's version of events is that a tank fired on the

    building after locating a sniper they believed was coordinating

    Iraqi fire from the hotel.

    Alouni took refuge in the hotel after US forces bombarded his

    television station's office, killing one reporter in the process.

    Taysir Alouni was Aljazeera's
    correspondent in Iraq

    "I was afraid they would continue firing on the hotel. It was

    one of the worst days of my life," he said.

    "It was a message from the Americans to the international

    press."

    Couso's family are seeking damages from the 64th armoured

    regiment of the US third infantry division.

    Al-Qaida accusation

    The Popular Party of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar,

    which strongly backed the US-led invasion of Iraq, last month

    rejected an opposition motion condemning the killings as well as

    calls for an inquiry into Couso's death.

    Alouni, a Spaniard of Syrian origin arrested on 5 September

    in Grenada, is famed 

    for an interview with Usama bin Ladin

    after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Suffering from a heart defect, he was released on bail on 23 

    October.

    Alouni was one of 35 people - including bin Ladin - charged in

    September with links to, or membership of, the Islamic network.

    SOURCE: AFP


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