BENGHAZI, Libya – An Al-Jazeera cameraman was killed in an ambush near the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Saturday, the first journalist slain in the nearly month-long conflict, the satellite station said.
Ali Hassan al-Jaber, a Qatari national, was killed and a correspondent was wounded and hospitalized in what the station described as an ambush on the crew as it returned from an assignment south of the rebel stronghold, which is deep inside opposition-held territory.
Correspondent Baybah Wald Amhadi said on camera that the crew had felt that it was being watched for days, and had informed the management of its Benghazi hotel, which improved security.
Amhadi said the crew’s car came under fire from the rear. Al-Jaber was shot three times in the back, and a fourth bullet hit the correspondent near the ear, he said.
“Even areas under rebel control are not totally safe,” Amhadi said. “There are followers, eyes or fifth columns, for Col. Gadhafi.”
General Director Wadah Khanfar said on Al-Jazeera that “this attack came after an unprecedented incitement campaign by Gadhafi. … This incitement is the main reason for what happened.”
Most of eastern Libya remains under rebel control, though pro-government forces have retaken territory in the past several days.
A large protest was organized later in Benghazi in solidarity with the slain cameraman.
Some banners read: “Targeting journalists reveals the criminal regime of the tyrant.”
In a statement issued later by the station, a spokesman for the network accused the Libyan government of waging a campaign against its journalists.
“We condemn this deliberate act of violence, which comes as part of a targeted campaign aimed at our journalists and crews. Al-Jazeera’s goal has been to report the unfolding events in Libya accurately and comprehensively,” the statement said.
Gadhafi has kept Western journalists under tight control, taking them to towns he has seized, and around the capital, Tripoli, under government escort to see squares filled with pro-regime loyalists.
Rebels have given journalists far greater freedom, but moving around the swiftly changing lines of control has been perilous.
The BBC has said three of its staff were detained, beaten and subjected to mock executions by pro-regime soldiers in Libya while attempting to reach the contested city Zawiya.
Gadhafi’s government freed a Brazilian reporter from detention after eight days but is still holding Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi national working for The Guardian.
Andrei Netto of the Estado de S. Paulo paper was released Thursday. He and Abdul-Ahad entered Libya through Tunisia and had filed news reports before being detained 10 days ago in the town of Sabratha.