THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Journalist derides roles of US, Iran

By Robert H. Reid
Associated Press / December 16, 2008
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BAGHDAD - The Iraqi TV reporter who hurled his shoes at President Bush was kidnapped once by militants and, separately, detained briefly by the US military - a story of getting hit from all sides that is bitterly familiar to many Iraqis.

Over time, Muntader al-Zaidi, a Shi'ite, came to hate both the US military occupation and Iran's interference in Iraq, his family told the Associated Press yesterday.

Zaidi's act of defiance Sunday transformed an obscure reporter from a minor TV station into a national hero to many Iraqis fed up with the nearly six-year US presence here, but also fearful that their country will fall under Iran's influence once the Americans leave.

A day after the incident, Zaidi's three brothers and one sister gathered in Zaidi's simple, one-bedroom apartment in west Baghdad. The home was decorated with a poster of Latin American revolutionary leader Che Guevara, who is widely lionized in the Middle East.

Family members expressed bewilderment over Zaidi's action and concern about his treatment in Iraqi custody. But they also expressed pride in his defiance of an American president who many Iraqis believe has destroyed their country.

"I swear to Allah, he is a hero," said his sister, who goes by the name Umm Firas, as she watched a replay on an Arabic satellite station of her brother's act. "May Allah protect him."

The family insisted that Zaidi's action was spontaneous - perhaps motivated by the political turmoil that their brother had reported on, plus his personal brushes with violence and the threat of death that millions of Iraqis face daily.

Zaidi joined Al-Baghdadia television in September 2005 after graduating from Baghdad University with a degree in communications. Two years later, he was seized by gunmen while on an assignment in a Sunni district of north Baghdad.

He was freed unharmed three days later, after Iraqi television stations broadcast appeals for his release. In January he was taken again, this time arrested by American soldiers who searched his apartment building, his brother, Dhirgham, said.

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