Al-Arabiya correspondent seriously injured in shooting

New York, June 21, 2005—
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Saturday’s shooting in Baghdad of Jawad Kadhem, an Iraqi correspondent for the Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya. Kadhem was seriously injured in the attack, which was believed to be the work of insurgents.

Najib Bencherif, Al-Arabiya’s head of correspondents in Dubai, told CPJ that the shooting occurred as Kadhem left a popular restaurant near the German embassy. The neighborhood is outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, but is normally a well-guarded area.

Bencherif said that two armed men ordered Kadhem to go with them in an apparent kidnap attempt. When Kadhem refused, the men shot him in the neck and the chest. A third shot struck Kadhem in the spine as he attempted run back into the restaurant.

Kadhem was in serious condition today in a hospital in Amman, Jordan, where he was transferred after getting initial treatment in Baghdad, Bencherif told CPJ. Kadhem is scheduled to undergo surgery tomorrow, he said.

Bencherif told CPJ that an obscure Sunni group calling itself Jund Al-Sahaba claimed responsibility in an Internet posting. Agence France-Press reported that the group claimed that Kadhem is “a malicious Shia,” accused the station of “treason,” and said that journalists who supported the United States or antagonized the Sunnis of Iraq would “face the same fate as Jawad Kadhem.” The group also accused Al-Arabiya of being a “mouthpiece of the Americans.”

The statement’s authenticity could not be confirmed.

“We deplore this shameful attack against a civilian,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Our thoughts and best wishes for a quick recovery go out to our colleague Jawad Kadhem.”

At least 45 journalists and 20 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. Insurgent actions are responsible for the bulk of deaths.

Mouthana Ibrahim, a Mosul-based correspondent for Al-Arabiya, was shot late last month in an attack blamed on insurgents. While traveling with his family in an industrial area, Ibrahim stopped his car to film a fire when the attack occurred. Ibrahim had been threatened repeatedly and the attack is presumed to have been motivated by his work for the station.

The office of Al-Arabiya was attacked in Baghdad in October 2004, killing five employees of the station. Two of the station’s journalists were fatally shot by U.S. troops at a military checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2004.