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2001-11-14

Shooting the Messenger: U.S. Missiles Destroy the Kabul Office of Al Jazeera, the "CNN of the Arab World" &shy After the Northern Alliance Began to Take the City

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The Kabul office of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite station that has broadcast two videotapes of Osama bin Laden denouncing America, was obliterated in US bombing early yesterday morning.

One American bomb fell 20 yards from the office, heavily damaging the Qatar-based satellite television network’soffices before Northern Alliance forces entered the Afghan capital, network and Pentagon officials said.

Al-Jazeera said none of its 10 staff members was injured. But al-Jazeera’s managing editor said that the strike couldhave been deliberate. "They know where we are located and they know what we have in our office and we also did notget any warning," he said. The station’s one reporter in Kabul, Tayseer Allouni, fled yesterday, after he had beentold by the Northern Alliance that if they captured him he would be killed.

A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa said last night that U.S. aircraft dropped two 500-pound bombs onthe building in question, based on "compelling" evidence that the facility was being used by the al Qaeda terroristorganization. At the time of the attack, Hoey said, "the indications we had were that this was not an al-Jazeeraoffice."

Half an hour earlier, another American bomb badly damaged a house used by the BBC just a block away in the samedistrict. The BBC team left the building shortly afterwards, crossing the city to the safety of an hotel. A rocketfired from an American jet also hit a pickup truck, killing four, according to Afghan workers of the InternationalCommittee of the Red Cross in Kabul.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly condemned al-Jazeera since September 11 for its criticism of the U.S. andcoverage of the civilian impact of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

The network, operating under an exclusive agreement with the Taliban, has regularly broadcast video of bomb damageand civilian casualties in Afghanistan as well as statements by Osama bin Laden. A videotape of bin Laden’s mostrecent statement, in which he said that any Muslim supporting the U.S. war had betrayed the faith, was delivered toal-Jazeera’s Kabul office earlier this month.

Al Jazeera, which went on the air only five years ago, claims some 35 million viewers worldwide.

Guests:

  • Abrahim Milal, chief editor of Al Jazeera news channel.
  • Ali Abuimah, Vice President of the Arab American Action Coalition.

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