Five journalists killed in attack on Iraq TV stations

Gunmen stormed the headquarters of al-Iraqia and Salaheddin television station in Tikrit

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Gunmen attacked on Monday the headquarters of two Iraqi television stations in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, killing at least five journalists, Agence France-Presse reported police officers as saying.

The dead in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, were Salaheddin television’s chief news editor, a copy editor, a producer, a presenter and the archives manager, the officers said.

Two of the bombers blew themselves up during the attack, and security forces killed the other two when they stormed the building in the assault, in which five Salaheddin employees were wounded.

Security forces cordoned off the area surrounding the buildings of al-Iraqia and Salaheddin television stations as flames and smoke were seen rising in the area, Al Arabiya correspondent said.

Some journalists managed to escape the building, while others were still trapped inside.

“I managed to escape, and I am outside the building, and the third and the fourth floors are on fire now,” a Salaheddin TV journalist told AFP by telephone.

“Some of my colleagues are trapped in the building, among them two women. I am calling them on their mobile phones and they are not answering,” he said.

A journalist from Iraqiya state TV, which has an office in the same building, said he too was able to escape, but that others were still in the building.

Iraq has come in for repeated criticism over the lack of media freedom and the number of unsolved killings of journalists.

With the latest violence, nine Iraqi journalists have been killed in attacks in less than three months.

Violence in the country has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a period of brutal sectarian killings.

More than 6,650 people have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

Iraqi officials have long warned that the conflict-ridden Syria has become a fertile ground for extremist Islamists, who could give support for other militias in Iraq to carry their attacks.

On Sunday, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said al-Qaeda with the help of its members in Syria is starting to use its old deserted camps once again to wage operations against Iraqi targets.

On Monday, the Iraqi military attacked camps belonging to an al-Qaeda-linked militant group in Anbar province, destroying two, the defense ministry said.

After locating camps with surveillance aircraft, Iraqi forces launched “successful strikes...resulting in the destruction of two camps in the desert of Anbar,” spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said in an statement.

The assaults came after five senior officers, including a divisional commander, and 10 soldiers were killed during an operation against militants in the mainly Sunni western province of Anbar.

Aerial photographs and other information pointed to “the arrival of weapons and advanced equipment from Syria to the desert of western Anbar and the border of Nineveh province,” he said.

This has encouraged al-Qaeda-linked militants to “revive some of their camps that were eliminated by security forces in 2008 and 2009,” Askari said, adding that aerial photos showed 11 militant camps near the border with Syria.

“Photographs and intelligence information indicate that whenever there is pressure on armed groups in Syria, they withdraw to Iraq... to regroup and then carry out terrorist operations in the two countries,” Askari said.

(With AFP)

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