Baghdad car bomb kills five Al-Arabiya employees

New York, November 1, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalist condemns this weekend’s car bomb attack against the Baghdad bureau of the Dubai-based satellite broadcaster Al-Arabiya. Five station employees were among the seven killed, and more than a dozen other Al-Arabiya employees were wounded in the apparent insurgent attack on Saturday, the station staff told CPJ.

Those killed were Ali Adnan, a security guard; Hassan Alwan, an engineer; kitchen staff members Ramziya Moushee and Alahin Hussein; and Nabil Hussein, a gardener, Al-Arabiya confirmed to CPJ. Al-Arabiya reporter Najwa Qassem said 14 other bureau employees, among them five journalists, were wounded in the blast. The bureau, in the upscale Mansour neighborhood, was used by two other Saudi-owned news stations—the satellite channel Al-Akhbariya and Al-Arabiya’s sister channel, Middle East Broadcasting (MBC).

“We deplore this reprehensible attack,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “There is no justification for targeting innocent civilians, including journalists who are simply doing their jobs. We send our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed.”

Al-Arabiya’s Web site reported Sunday that a previously unknown group calling itself the “Jihad Martyrs Brigades” claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on the Internet. The statement called Saturday’s attack “just a warning” and threatened more attacks on Al-Arabiya and other media outlets in Iraq. The statement’s authenticity could not be independently verified.

Earlier, a group calling itself the 1920 Brigades said it had carried out the attack, but Al-Arabiya later reported that the same group denied responsibility in a recorded tape.
About 35 staffers were meeting on the first floor when the bomb exploded directly outside the bureau’s front entrance. The blast, which took place in a neighborhood that also houses Iraqi officials and government buildings, left a large crater in the street outside and collapsed the building’s first floor, causing a fire.

Al-Arabiya’s Web site reported that the station has received numerous threats from those describing themselves as supporters of “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” protesting its coverage, and demanding that the station support the “jihad” against the U.S occupation and Iraqi government.

Since the U.S.-led war in Iraq began in March 2003 at least 36 journalists and eighteen media workers have been killed, including three reporters from Al-Arabiya. Iraqis constitute more than 80 percent of the journalists and media workers killed in 2004.