BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A U.S. tank shell hit a hotel where hundreds of journalists were staying and a U.S. bomb landed on the office of an Arab television network in the Iraqi capital yesterday, killing a total of three journalists and wounding three others.
A statement from U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said U.S. forces fired on the Palestine Hotel after troops received “significant” enemy fire from the 18-story hotel just off Firdos Square along the Tigris River.
Journalists who were standing on balconies of the hotel taking pictures said they witnessed no signs of firing from the hotel before seeing the tank open fire from a bridge a little over half a mile away.
The tank shell hit balconies on the 14th and 15th floors of the hotel, spraying glass and shrapnel into a corner suite used by the Reuters news agency.
A Ukrainian cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, 35, was killed and three other Reuters employees were wounded. Spanish television network Telecinco said its cameraman, Jose Couso, 37, hit in the leg and jaw, also died after surgery.
The tank that fired was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division.
U.S. Army Col. David Perkins, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, told an Associated Press reporter assigned to the unit that Iraqis fired rocket-propelled grenades at tanks from in front of the Palestine Hotel, and the military, scanning the area for observation posts, saw binoculars and fired. The tanks were also taking fire from mortars, he said.
“There must have been 50 cameras on the balconies,” said AP photographer Jerome Delay, who was on top floor. “How can they spot someone with binoculars and not cameras?”
Delay said that he watched the tanks which had taken up positions on the bridge from his vantage point on the top floor of the hotel. “All the shooting was concentrated on the bridge and across the river,” where U.S. forces were located, he said.