Gunmen Attack TV Station in Baghdad

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, October 13, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 12 -- Gunmen in police cars and police uniforms stormed the offices of an Iraqi satellite television channel in Baghdad on Thursday and shot or slit the throats of all inside, killing at least eight people in the deadliest attack on journalists in Iraq, according to witnesses and the Interior Ministry.

Many of those killed in the 7 a.m. raid on al-Shaabiya TV were shot as they lay sleeping in their beds at the station. Neighbors said they heard no gunfire, leading the station's executive director, Hassan Kamil, to tell state-allied al-Iraqiya television that he believed silencers had been used.

"The killing police left the scene after killing those Iraqis," said Saad Saleem, a 43-year-old teacher who lives near the house where the station is located. Gesturing at police who responded to cordon off the station after the killings, Saleem said: "These police arrived only later. For us, Iraqis, we cannot tell the difference."

The attackers killed two guards outside, then attacked the workers inside, killing six of them. The dead included Abdul Raheem Nasrallah, the channel's general director and the general secretary of a small, secular political party, the Progress and Justice Movement.

The Shaabiya workers had spent the night at the station because of a long-standing Baghdad curfew that bans overnight vehicle traffic. The new station had yet to begin regular programming, playing only patriotic music.

Suspicion fell on militias connected with the Shiite Muslim religious parties that lead Iraq's government, with the militiamen either in the police force itself or working with the aid of the police, who are predominantly Shiite.

There was no explanation for why the station was targeted, however. One theory suggested that because it was playing nationalist tunes, it had created the impression that the station favored Sunni Arabs, although the slain station executive was Shiite.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organization, cited unidentified local sources as saying the station may have been hit because it received funding from Libya. Many Shiites blame Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi for the assassination of a revered Shiite cleric in Lebanon nearly three decades ago.

A total of 118 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to Reporters Without Borders. The vast majority of them were Iraqi.

The organization said the body of another Iraqi journalist, radio reporter Azad Mohammed Hassan, was found Tuesday in the Baghdad morgue and bore signs of severe torture. He had been kidnapped a week earlier.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that the bodies of another 42 men or boys had been found dumped around Baghdad in the previous 24 hours. All had been shot; many were blindfolded with their hands tied. Two of the victims were boys, both apparently about 10 years old, the ministry said.

In other violence, a bomb mounted on a motorcycle killed two policemen in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said, and a car bomb followed by a roadside bomb killed nine civilians in central Baghdad.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company