DOHA, Qatar -- A small crowd of Iraqis harassed an Al-Jazeera television crew Saturday, accusing the journalists of supporting former President Saddam Hussein, the satellite channel reported.
The incident occurred in Basra, southern Iraq, as the Al-Jazeera crew were driving to a meeting that was to be addressed by Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, who returned to Iraq earlier Saturday after 20 years of exile in Iran.
Dozens of Iraqis surrounded the crew's van and harassed the journalists, the channel's newscaster said in the evening news bulletin.
"The angry locals accused the station of complicity with the previous regime (of Saddam) against the interests of the Iraqi people," the newscaster said.
No one was hurt and the crew managed to withdraw after community leaders intervened, the newscaster added.
However, the channel did not manage to cover the meeting.
Later, an Al-Jazeera producer told The Associated Press that some Iraqis had climbed on to the van and shouted insults at the crew.
"But it was not a big deal," the producer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added the channel will not withdraw its staff from Basra, where it has an office with two reporters and technical staff.
Earlier this month, the Iraqi opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi, who leads the Iraqi National Council, accused Al-Jazeera of being infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence agents. He made the accusation after the channel mistakenly reported that Chalabi had been arrested by U.S. troops on charges of embezzlement.
Al-Jazeera did not respond to the Chalabi accusation.
The channel is one of the most respected television services in the Arab world, particularly for broadcasting panel discussions where guests bluntly criticize Arab governments. But its coverage of the Iraq war was criticized for giving more time to officials of Saddam's government than to its opponents.
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