UK minister urged Aljazeera bombing
David Blunkett, the UK’s former home secretary, has said that during the 2003 invasion of Iraq he suggested to Tony Blair that Britain’s military should bomb Aljazeera’s television transmitter in Baghdad.
Aljazeera television said on Thursday that Blunkett’s claims – made in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 television to be aired on Monday – support its belief that the US and Britain deliberately bombed its Baghdad offices during the war.
Ahmed al-Sheikh, editor-in-chief of Aljazeera’s Arabic channel, said; “This adds to the growing number of evidences that will one day prove that the attack on Aljazeera was premeditated … at the highest levels.
“Aljazeera was being targeted at the time because the people who were waging war on Iraq didn’t like what it was showing.
“We talk about terrorism, this is pure terrorism.”
Al-Sheikh also said that Aljazeera will ask for an official British statement on Blunkett’s claims.
“In the past, we got in touch with the Americans and asked them to apologise or to hold an investigation. But we haven’t heard anything from them.
“This time, we will also complain,” he said, adding that an official statement would be released later.
During his interview with Channel 4, Blunkett, who is promoting a new book, said that he had told Tony Blair, the British prime minister, that Aljazeera television transmitting equipment should be targeted because it was broadcasting “propaganda”.
“There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place,” Blunkett said.
“I don’t think for a minute in previous wars we’d have thought twice about ensuring that a propaganda mechanism on the soil of the country you were invading would actually continue being able to propagandise against you.”
Two weeks after Blunkett pressed the prime minister to attack Aljazeera, the American military bombed the station’s Baghdad offices, killing journalist Tareq Ayoub.
Blunkett, however, said that although the British government considered targeting Aljazeera’s transmission equipment, it considered that journalists were not a legitimate target.
“I think there’s a big difference between taking out the transmission and taking out journalists – even if you don’t agree with them,” he said.
“I don’t know whether it was a mistake or not, but I wouldn’t call it legitimacy,” he added, referring to the US bombing.
Since April 2003, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that at least 80 journalists and 22 media support workers have died in the Iraq conflict – the overwhelming majority killed by members of Iraqi groups.
In addition to that tally, 11 employees of Shaabiya, an Iraqi television channel, were killed when their offices were attacked during the night by masked gunmen early on Thursday morning.
“We came in this morning and we saw the massacre,” Hassan Kamil, executive manager of Shaabiya satellite channel, said.
“All were killed. We think gunmen broke into the house and killed them.”