Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Missed it again

The AP gets lost again.

We ran BC-Al-Qaida-Airline Threat, 4th Ld-Writethru,0751 in this morning's edition.

The surprise is, "terrorists" are back. That is, al-Qaida officially become terrorists again, in the AP's lede:

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — An Internet statement signed by an al-Qaida cell in Saudi Arabia warned Monday that the terror network will target Western airlines, military bases and residential compounds and told Muslims to stay away from Westerners.

But they're "militants" in three other places; and in the description of the Khobar assault only "gunmen" are mentioned. The word "terror" is used again, in reference to the Nick Berg beheading.

Yet this is the same Web site used by the Berg assassins and by the Khobar killers to release their respective statements. How the AP distinguishes when the same people are gunmen, militants, and terrorists has never been explained to me.

The AP helpfully explains some things: that "Al-Qaida uses the term 'Arabian Peninsula' to refer to Saudi Arabia because it rejects the rule of the Al Saud dynasty, after whom the country is named." It explains that
"crusaders" is "the term used by militants for Americans and Europeans." But it doesn't explain how the AP decides which noun to use to describe Islamist killers.

Then it deals with the gist of the statement from the terror group, which warns all Muslims to avoid "contact with the American and Western crusaders and all nonbelievers in the Arabian peninsula." Muslims should stay away from Americans and Westerners "in their homes, compounds, movements and means of transport -— in all shapes and forms." It calls on "all those [Muslims] that have stood by America and its allies ... to return to the right path, to separate themselves from nonbelievers, to become their enemies and to fight holy war against them by money, word and weapon."

"This enemy must be fought. There is no other way but to fight it and eradicate it."

The statement said the warning was meant to spare Muslim blood. "We act only to protect them, their religion, honor and life." The AP then notes that the "gunmen" who accomplished the Khobar slaughter "reportedly separated out and spared Muslims and Arabs and killed non-Muslims."

Militants have stepped up attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia in past weeks, most recently in a shooting Sunday that killed an Irish cameraman and wounded a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter.

But according to Middle East Online, the BBC reporter was a practicing Muslim and identified himself as such.

RIYADH - Riddled with bullets, BBC correspondent Frank Gardner pleaded for his life in the Saudi capital shouting to bystanders to help a fellow Muslim, a police officer said on Monday.

"I'm a Muslim, help me, I'm a Muslim, help me," the British father of two daughters cried in Arabic, the officer said.

Gardner was stretched on the road, covered in blood from multiple bullet wounds in a slum area of southern Riyadh known as a hotbed of hardliners.

A fluent Arabic speaker with a degree in Arab and Islamic Studies, he was carrying a small copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, a device used by Westerner reporters to try to reassure Islamist militants.

He was gravely wounded and his Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers killed Sunday evening as they filmed near the home of Ibrahim al-Rayyes, a wanted terror suspect killed in a clash with security forces in the area last December.

According to Reuters, "the gunmen separated the Saudi escort from the journalists before shooting them." So they knew what they were doing. But the AP allows the "militants" to be protecting the "honor" of the Muslims without bothering to notice the irony that this was a case of friendly fire. Of course, they'd never overlook that in an American soldier.

Of course, in reporting this story, the BBC briefly reverted to the word "terrorist" in describing the "militants" who shot their man.