Reuters seeks new inquiry into Iraq hotel deaths

by Dean Yates, Reuters

Reuters News said on Tuesday it was seeking a fresh inquiry into the 2003 killing of two journalists in Baghdad by a U.S. tank crew after a report raised new questions about their deaths.

Reuters Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso, a cameraman with the Spanish network Telecinco, were killed by a tank shell that hit the Palestine Hotel on April 8, 2003, in the final stages of the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Reuters News, part of global information company Thomson Reuters, said it would write to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to push for another inquiry after a report by U.S. Internet news and current affairs broadcaster Democracy Now.

On May 15, Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org) posted an interview with a former U.S. army sergeant in military intelligence who said that prior to the invasion she had been given a list of targets for potential attack that included the Palestine Hotel.

The sergeant, Adrienne Kinne, said she had also been ordered to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of journalists who were staying at the hotel.

Kinne, who served in the military from 1994 until 2004, said she was surprised to see the hotel listed as a potential target given the number of foreign media there, she told Democracy Now in a lengthy interview posted on its website.

A large foreign media contingent stayed at the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad in the lead-up to the invasion and then during the war that toppled Saddam.

Kinne said the list of targets had been circulated in an e-mail that she had received.

A U.S. military investigation found the tank crew acted within their rules of engagement, saying they fired because they thought they saw a spotter who was guiding in hostile fire.

A Reuters investigation into the killings identified a breakdown in communications between military commanders and troops on the ground.

The new allegations come in the same week a Spanish court threw out charges against three U.S. soldiers -- Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant-Colonel Phil de Camp -- for killing the Spanish cameraman, Couso.

In media interviews after the incident, Wolford, the commander of the tank, said he had not been told by his superiors that the hotel was being used by journalists.

Wolford told France's Nouvel Observateur in April 2003 that he ordered the attack after his men spotted what appeared to be someone using binoculars on the roof of the hotel during the battle for the Iraqi capital.

In its investigation into the incident, media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists said the attack "while not deliberate, was avoidable".

It said "Pentagon officials, as well as commanders on the ground in Baghdad, knew that the hotel was full of international journalists and were intent on not hitting it".

"However, these senior officers apparently failed to convey their concern to the tank commander who fired on the hotel."

article originally published at http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL20690720080520?sp=true.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey