Originally from Palestine, he had worked for the Jordan Times and the Associated Press news agency before joining Al Jazeera where he worked for three years as a correspondent in Amman. He was then asked to join the team covering the 2003 war in Iraq.

On April 8, only five days after arriving in Baghdad, Ayoub was on the roof of the Al Jazeera office with cameraman Zuheir al-Iraqi, preparing to do a live report on the latest heavy bombardments when the building was hit by two US missiles.

Taysir Alouni, an Al Jazeera reporter, was downstairs when the attack happened and saw the injured Zuheir come down from the roof.

"I ran up as the shells were still falling and crawled on the roof and shouted for Tariq, but he did not answer," Allouni said.

After the bombardment Allouni went back on to the roof and with the help of an Abu Dhabi TV correspondent, Jaber Obeid, recovered Ayoub's body.

Later that day the nearby offices of Abu Dhabi TV were hit by a missile and the Palestine Hotel, where more than 300 journalists were staying, was struck by a US tank shell.

Two Reuters cameramen were killed and five other people were injured.

Al Jazeera staff were shocked by Ayoub's death. "We were all really sad," said Faisal al-Qassem, presenter of The Opposite Direction. "Our correspondents are very courageous people."

Yasser Abu Hilalah, Al Jazeera correspondent in Amman, said: "I knew Tariq for 10 years. He was very brave, professional and a hard worker."

Al Jazeera aired footage of Ayoub only an hour before he was killed; he was shown preparing to go live on air, leaning on sandbags and wearing a helmet and flak jacket.

US military officials stated that Ayoub's death had been an accident and that hostile fire had been seen originating from the Al Jazeera building.

At dusk on the night of the attacks Western and Arab journalists gathered in front of the Palestine Hotel to hold prayers in memory of their colleagues.

Some broke into tears while others lit candles. A few shouted: "Stop friendly fire!"

Condemnation of the attacks, especially the targeting of Al Jazeera's office, was swift.

Taysir Allouni said Arab and Western journalists were in a state of anger, wondering what they should do.

"We are only witnesses of events  we want to document and transmit to the world," he said. "They [coalition forces] want these witnesses to disappear so that no one can testify to the actions they commit, whether a small or big crime."

Another of Al Jazeera's Baghdad correspondents, Majed Abdel Hadi, called Ayoub's death a crime, saying: "The Al Jazeera team has no role in the war. We are only witnesses and are reporting objectively.

"This proves that the US is trying to cover the crime it commits in its war on Iraq. Targeting witnesses is the biggest crime."

Dozens of Jordanian journalists staged a sit-in outside the Jordan Press Association in Amman calling for an end to the "massacres of journalists and civilians" in Iraq

Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese president, said it was an attempt to prevent journalists "transmitting the truth".

Buthaina Shaaban of the Syrian foreign ministry expressed sadness for Ayoub's death which she said was "part of the war to hide the truth from the British and US people who, if they were able to witness what is going on in Iraq, will not support this war".

In a leader column in the Jordan Times, Sultan al-Hatab wrote: "Tariq Ayoub was a journalist who prevented the warmongers from completely narrating the story. He did so using no methods other than those of a real journalist; professionalism, independence and being a witness on the ground."

The death, and that of other journalists, were also condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, and by Mohammed Edwan, the Jordanian information minister, who sharply denounced the US bombing as "acts in which many innocent victims are falling".

Edwan also offered his government's condolences to Tariq Ayoub's family, as did everyone at Al Jazeera and many of his colleagues in journalism.

In an interview on the day of his death, Ayoub's wife Dima said: "Eventually everyone will forget him, but we will never forget him. He is with God now."