UAE crown prince asked US to bomb Al Jazeera, WikiLeaks claims

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 29.06.2017 17:50
In this Jan. 1, 2015, file photo, staff members of Al-Jazeera International work at the news studio in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo)
In this Jan. 1, 2015, file photo, staff members of Al-Jazeera International work at the news studio in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo)

A diplomatic cable released Wednesday by WikiLeaks suggested that Abu Dhabi's crown prince and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed asked the United States to "bomb the offices of Al Jazeera."

According to the leaked documents, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed – also referred to as "MBZ" in the documents – urged U.S. diplomat Richard Haass to control the media coverage of Iraq's invasion in 2003, emphasizing the "importance of reining the Doha-based Al Jazeera newtwork prior to any military action."

During his conversation with the U.S. diplomat, bin Zayed also reportedly recalled a meeting between the Qatari Emir Hamad Al-Thani and his father Shaykh Zayid, which was held before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

"Hamad complained about a report he had received that MBZ had asked General Franks to bomb Al-Jazeera. According to MBZ, Zayid derisively responded: 'Do you blame him?,'" the WikiLeaks post said.

U.S. General Tommy Franks, who is now retired, was at that time responsible for monitoring military operations across the Middle East as head of the U.S. Central Command.

State-funded Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera had previously accused the U.S. of deliberately targeting its outlets.

One of its offices in Afghanistan's Kabul was destroyed in U.S. airstrikes, despite the fact that the news network had reported its location to Washington.

Chief Editor Ibrahim Hilal said at that time that he believed the U.S. attack was long-planned, as Al Jazeera's coverage of the Afghanistan war was mostly criticized by U.S. officials as "inflammatory propaganda," Russia Today reported.

"I still believe the decision to exclude our office from the coverage was taken weeks before the bombing," Hilal said, adding that he did not think the U.S. would have attacked while they were the only office in Kabul.

A U.S. missile also struck Al Jazeera's offices in Baghdad in April 2003, leading to the death of one staff member and injuring another.

Al Jazeera "was not and never had been a target," a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command said at that time.

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