The Los Angeles Times has apologised to readers and Sean "Diddy" Combs after implicating the latter in the non-fatal shooting of late rapper Tupac Shakur.

The author of the story and his supervising editor both admitted they were fooled by forged documents.

In the story published on the LA Times' website last week and in the paper itself two days later, associates of rap mogul Combs were linked to the 1994 shooting of Tupac.

The rapper, who died in a separate shooting incident two years later, was shot when leaving the Quad Recording Studios in New York on November 30th 1994.

No one has ever been charged over the assault, but the LA Times said confidential FBI records showed James Rosemond and James Sabatino, allies of Combs, were involved.

But the paper has now admitted it was the victim of a hoax after the Smoking Gun website said it had been tricked by a convicted fraudster.

Reporter Chuck Philips said in his apology: "In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job. I'm sorry."

His supervisor, LA Times deputy managing editor Marc Duvoisin said he "deeply regretted" letting readers down.

"We should not have let ourselves be fooled. That we were is as much my fault as Chuck's," he acknowledged.

The LA Times' editor, Russ Stanton, has launched an immediate review into the affair.

"We published this story with the sincere belief that the documents were genuine, but our good intentions are beside the point," he claimed.

"The bottom line is that the documents we relied on should not have been used. We apologise both to our readers and to those referenced in the documents and, as a result, in the story. We are continuing to investigate this matter and will fulfil our journalistic responsibility for critical self-examination."

In a statement released through his lawyer, Combs denounced the original LA Times story as "completely untrue".

27/03/2008 11:24:13