Al-Jazeera cameraman chased and shot dead by Gaddafi regime supporters
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 13 March 2011 14.26 GMT
An al-Jazeera cameraman who died in eastern Libya was hunted down and ambushed by forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, according to sources at the broadcaster.
Ali Hassan al-Jaber was among a team from the network’s Arabic station attacked as they returned to the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Saturday.
In an official statement, al-Jazeera said the group were ambushed, and it condemned “the cowardly crime, which comes as part of the Libyan regime’s malicious campaign targeting al-Jazeera and its staff”.
It said the group had been returning from a nearby town after reporting on an opposition protest. Sources at al-Jazeera told the Guardiansaid that Gaddafi loyalists followed the journalists from the protest scene and sprayed their vehicle with bullets. Al-Jazeera discounted earlier reports that they were lured to an interview under false pretences.
Jaber, a Qatari national, was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries. Another al-Jazeera journalist was wounded.
Gaddafi has blamed al-Jazeera, which has won plaudits for its reporting of the Middle East and north African uprisings, for the bloodshed in Libya.
Speaking at the annual al-Jazeera media forum at the network’s base in Doha in the Gulf state of Qatar, its director general, Wadah Khanfar, paid tribute to Jaber, a “martyred” journalist.
“He was one of those people who lived and eventually died in the pursuit of truth. We are determined to carry on regardless. We cannot sacrifice our lives except for noble causes. There is no nobler cause than the pursuit of truth.”
He said people in Benghazi had spontaneously turned out to demonstrate in support of the station following the attack.
Al-Jazeera’s website carried a picture of what it said was Jaber’s coffin being carried through the streets of Benghazi, draped in the Libyan flag.
Earlier, Khanfar attacked the “unprecedented” campaign waged by Gaddafi against the station.
The station said in its statement: “Al-Jazeera reiterates that the assault cannot dent its resolve to continue its mission, professionally enlightening the public of the unfolding events in Libya and elsewhere. Al-Jazeera stresses it will relentlessly prosecute and bring to justice all perpetrators and their accomplices.”
Tony Birtley, a correspondent for al-Jazeera English in Benghazi, said that Jaber had been hit by three shots, one of them through the heart.
“This is an extension of the campaign against al-Jazeera, and al-Jazeera Arabic particularly, because everyone here watches al-Jazeera Arabic. Their work has been heroic, and it has been a great shock to lose a colleague,” he said.