The U.S. Central Command said it regrets that three journalists were killed in Baghdad as U.S. warplanes bombed the city and U.S. and Iraqi units fought near a downtown hotel where many reporters are staying. The U.S. military said it does not target journalists and accuses forces loyal to Saddam Hussein of putting the reporters in danger.
Central Command reacted rapidly to suggestions from the pan-Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera that its offices in Baghdad had been deliberately targeted during a bombing raid on the capital, which killed one of its journalists.
In a later incident, a cameraman from Reuters television and another from a Spanish network died after a U.S. tank fired a shell into the hotel where they were staying.
Brigadier General Vince Brooks, the Central Command spokesman, said the tank had been fired on by someone in the hotel. He said U.S. forces try not to hurt civilians, but must defend themselves.
"We know that we are conducting combat operations inside of an urban area, an area which the regime has chosen deliberately to defend and not stand down. And we can only be reminded that the risk increases for the population as we do these operations, but we will have to remain focused on our objective of removing this regime before there is greater loss of life," he said.
U.S. officials said they will investigate the incident at the hotel. But they say the Iraqi regime has often placed snipers and other paramilitaries in such civilian locations.