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What were they trying to hide? Journalists detained after US military look for photographers of bombing incident

Al Jazeera

In a fresh attack on reporters covering the occupation of Iraq, two agency journalists were locked up by Iraqi police for several hours on Sunday.

An AFP photographer and a Reuters cameraman were held in Fallujah by police who said they were acting on orders from the US military.

AFP Middle East photo chief Patrick Baz said he and his colleague, Hamza al-Badri, were arrested as they covered the aftermath of an attack on a US convoy in the flashpoint city 50km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

The two were held at the Fallujah police station before being transferred to the US army's 82nd Airborne Division base where they were released more than five hours later.

"Police told us they could not release us until American officers come here," Baz told colleagues by telephone from the Fallujah police station.

Accreditation not recognised

A spokesman for the US-led occupation coalition in Baghdad confirmed to Aljazeera.net that the arrests had been made and said that journalistic accreditation was no protection against arrest.

"If they were filming an attack on US services, well, anybody present will be detained regardless of whether or not they are carrying a camera," he said.

"There is no recognised (journalistic) accreditation in Iraq right now," he added.

A European journalists' rights group slammed the policy saying that the American occupiers were trying to limit the world's view of events in Iraq.

"It's an appalling example of how the Americans are trying to ensure that things that don't fit their agenda are not reported, while ferrying the journalists to show the things they want them to see," said Barry White, of the European Federation of Journalists.

Answering the charge that the US was trying to censor coverage of operations in Iraq, the coalition's spokesman, who refused to be named, said, "Did the US provoke these attacks? No."

He denied that the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil was a provocation in itself.

"The fact is that we liberated them - that's the only way to see it."

Lured to police station

Baz said the Iraqi police officers, none of whom would reveal their names, explained that the Americans were looking for someone who allegedly filmed the attack that caused the explosion of a vehicle apparently carrying ammunition.

Baz and his colleague went to the police station after being told the local commander would hold a news conference about the attack. Once they arrived they were informed of their detention.

In recent months, nine Aljazeera reporters and employees have been arrested, with eight of those individuals being subsequently released without charge. Taysir Allouni is being held in Spain on charges unconnected with the situation in Iraq.

Sixteen journalists have been killed in the war on Iraq and its aftermath.

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