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'I simply don't believe the whole thing was a lie'

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Tank captain admits firing on media hotel

Giles Tremlett
Monday April 21, 2003
The Guardian


A US army captain has admitted that an Abrams tank under his command fired on the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, killing two journalists, but said he had not been told that the hotel was home to the international press.

In an interview with France's Nouvel Observateur, Captain Philip Wolford, confirmed that the deaths of Spanish television cameraman Jose Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk on April 8 were caused by one of his tanks during a battle with Iraqi forces.

Capt Wolford, commander of A Company, 4th Battalion, of the 3rd Infantry Division, said his men had seen a glint of light reflecting off what they thought were binoculars on one of the hotel's balconies.

His unit, which included Bradley fighting vehicles, was under attack from the opposite side of the Tigris river, at a road junction beside the Jumhuriyah bridge.

"In front of us there was an especially active building, with rockets and missiles. To the left were two other missile launchers. On the right, further away but very efficient, there was another missile launcher," he said.

He had assumed that the binoculars were being held by whoever was directing the incoming sniper and rocket fire which, coming from a radius of 180 degrees, had hit all of his company's tanks. Some of that fire had come from buildings near the hotel, he said.

"The fire was arriving with no let up ... I returned fire without hesitation. That is the rule," he said. "It was the strongest resistance I encountered in Baghdad. Four of my men were injured."

He said he regretted that the tank shot, which hit the 14th and 15th storeys of the hotel, had killed two journalists and wounded three. "I feel bad. My men feel bad," he said.

But he insisted that he had not been told that the hotel was filled with foreign journalists and that he had no orders to leave it alone.

"No. I had no information of that kind," he said. He said he had been in constant radio contact with his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Philip DeCamp, during the fighting.

He doubted that orders to avoid the hotel could have got lost as they travelled down the chain of command. "I cannot for a moment imagine that information sent by the divisional headquarters would not have got to me," he said.

Le Nouvel Observateur reached a different conclusion. "In Washington, or in the divisional HQ or along the chain of command, someone either did not wish to, or did not see fit to, hand on this information," it said.

Latest news
Breaking news on the Iraq crisis
Special report: Iraq - the media war

Truth and the media
15.04.2003: Al-Sahaf in suicide riddle
15.04.2003: Short accused of shunning UK media
08.04.2003: Keegan attacks 'abysmal' war media
08.04.2003: 'Baghdad is safe, the infidels are committing suicide'
07.04.2003: Media hit back at air marshal
07.04.2003: Burridge: war is not 'infotainment'
04.04.2003: Fisk 'has not been duped by Saddam'
04.04.2003: Media reacts angrily to Blunkett
03.04.2003: Blunkett attacks media
03.04.2003: Independents 'frozen out' by armed forces
31.03.2003: Arab media airs 'fiction' says Campbell
31.03.2003: 'You know less than when you arrived'
01.04.2003: Straw warns against snap judgments

TV coverage
17.04.2003: Americans turn to BBC for war news
14.04.2003: Rageh Omaar wins it for BBC in Baghdad
14.04.2003: US broadcasters' war stance under scrutiny
13.04.2003: BBC defends its reporter in Baghdad
14.04.2003: Sky News scales back Iraq operation
14.04.2003: US broadcasters' war stance under scrutiny
10.04.2003: Middle East gets another view of fall of Baghdad
09.04.2003: ITV and BBC break schedules for 'fall' of Baghdad
04.04.2003: Sky winning news battle
02.04.2003: Sambrook admits 'unfortunate' war comments
31.03.2003: War reporting 'changed forever' says BBC
02.04.2003: Rivera beats a retreat from war zone
02.04.2003: ITV ditches Blair drama
31.03.2003: Arnett fired by NBC after Iraqi TV outburst
31.03.2003: Reuters TV forced to pull plug on CNN
28.03.2003: BBC boss admits 'daily' mistakes in Iraq
28.03.2003: BBC chiefs stress need to attribute war sources
26.03.2003: Reporting truth proving difficult, says BBC news chief

Towards Freedom TV
17.04.2003: Towards Freedom aiming for 'free society'
11.04.2003: US to beam American news into Iraq
10.04.2003: Blair launches new Iraqi TV
10.04.2003: George Bush's address on Towards Freedom TV
10.04.2003: Tony Blair's address on Towards Freedom TV

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15.04.2003: Lloyd 'caught between crossfire'
15.04.2003: Toll rises as Argentine reporter dies
15.04.2003: ITN crew remain missing in Iraq
13.04.2003: Showing courage in line of fire
11.04.2003: Journalists quit embedded roles
10.04.2003: Editors blast Rumsfeld over 'reckless' US strike
10.04.2003: Al-Jazeera crew attacked in Detroit
16.04.2003: War toll - journalists killed or missing in Iraq
10.04.2003: Editors blast Rumsfeld over 'reckless' US strike
09.04.2003: Straw to seek explanation for journalist deaths
09.04.2003: Simpson: journalists 'taking a hammering'
09.04.2003: 'We were almost lynched', say journalists
09.04.2003: Press watchdog accuses US army over Baghdad deaths
09.04.2003: Iraq - the most dangerous war for journalists
09.04.2003: Fury at US as attacks kill three journalists
08.04.2003: Gilligan casts doubt on source of hotel attack
08.04.2003: Second journalist dies after hotel strike
08.04.2003: Military accused of targeting non-embedded journalists
08.04.2003: US: press deaths 'unfortunate'
08.04.2003: Reuters man killed in US attack
08.04.2003: Army admits firing on hotel
08.04.2003: Journalists injured as Baghdad hotel attacked

Comment and analysis
14.04.2003: Roy Greenslade: Don't mention the war
14.04.2003: Stefano Hatfield: Homeland insecurity
14.04.2003: Michael Wolff: I was only asking
14.04.2003: Peter Preston: Censoring the dead
10.04.2003: Steve Bell: Drawing fire
07.04.2003: Peter Preston: Please, just tell us what's going on
04.04.2003: Stefano Hatfield: The spinning isn't winning
02.04.2003: Stefano Hatfield: Running scared
02.04.2003: Phillip Knightley: The battle for our hearts and minds
31.03.2003: Emily Bell: The blogs of war
31.03.2003: Roy Greenslade: Follow my leader?
30.03.2003: Peter Preston: The propaganda war
28.03.2003: Faisal Bodi: Al-Jazeera tells the truth about war
27.03.2003: Alex Ashbourne: The rumour mill
27.03.2003: Mark Borkowski: Is it all a photo-op?
24.03.2003: Stefano Hatfield: Stars kinda protested, advertisers didn't
26.03.2003: Peter Preston: Treading a difficult path
25.03.2003: Marcel Berlins: TV not bound by Geneva convention

War Watch
11.04.2003: Thoughts from the home front
11.04.2003: War Watch: claims and counter-claims

Press coverage
13.04.2003: War-weary Mirror needs new marching orders
03.04.2003: Galloway: 'Sun lives in the sewers'
03.04.2003: Mirror readers turn off war stance
03.04.2003: US war photographer sacked for altering image
02.04.2003: Newspapers fail to keep war gains
01.04.2003: US press turns on Arnett
01.04.2003: Mirror scoops sacked NBC man
01.04.2003: War reports boost paper sales
31.03.2003: Katy Weitz: Why I quit the Sun
27.03.2003: Readers have 'no idea', says top war correspondent
21.03.2003: Sun brands Chirac 'Saddam's whore'

Bush and the US media
07.04.2003: US media dig deep for politicians

Al-Jazeera
10.04.2003: Al-Jazeera crew attacked in Detroit
08.04.2003: Al-Jazeera cameraman killed in US raid
08.04.2003: Al-Jazeera claims military 'cover up'
03.04.2003: Baghdad expels al-Jazeera man
02.04.2003: Al-Jazeera's Basra HQ bombed
01.04.2003: Al-Jazeera turns to text
28.03.2003: Hackers divert al-Jazeera users to US porn and patriot sites
27.03.2003: We have upper hand in Iraq, claims al-Jazeera
27.03.2003: Al-Jazeera defiant over war dead footage
27.03.2003: Blair expresses 'horror' at al-Jazeera
25.03.2003: Europeans flock to al-Jazeera
24.03.2003: Al-Jazeera causes outcry with casualty footage

TV ratings
28.03.2003: Appetite for 24-hour news channels soars
25.03.2003: ITV gets record ratings
24.03.2003: Sky News cements lead over News 24
21.03.2003: BBC wins first day ratings battle
20.03.2003: Sky and ITV claim dead heat

Iraqi TV
02.04.2003: Calls for Iraq TV bombing inquiry
26.03.2003: Human rights groups condemn Iraqi TV bombing

TV reviews
28.03.2003: Mark Lawson: Come the movie, it's a role for Will Smith
26.03.2003: Mark Lawson: Blair says it clearly, again and again
24.03.2003: Mark Lawson: Off to war with the armchair division

New media
03.04.2003: Demand for news pushes web traffic to record levels
31.03.2003: The blogs of war
28.03.2003: War prompts text message boom
28.03.2003: Lack of trust in media turns many to alternative sources

Advertising and marketing
15.04.2003:
15.04.2003:
10.04.2003: Sony leads charge to cash in on Iraq
03.04.2003: American broadcasters count cost of war
02.04.2003: Agencies warn over 'flag-waving' ads
31.03.2003: Just say 'Non' - US urges boycott of French wine
31.03.2003: Intelligence veil lifted in media battle
26.03.2003: Advertising weathers Iraqi storm
21.03.2003: Ads pulled from TV war slots

Media tycoons support war
03.04.2003: Murdoch: US must ditch 'inferiority complex'
17.02.2003: Roy Greenslade: Their master's voice
13.02.2003: Black is latest to back Blair
11.02.2003: Murdoch backs 'courageous' Blair over Iraq




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