Journalists’ hotel attacked in Baghdad

New York, October 24, 2005—
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s deadly car bomb attacks on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which is widely used by foreigners, including journalists and news organizations reporting from Iraq.

In a coordinated attack, three large car bombs detonated outside the hotel at dusk, killing as many as 20 people, injuring a number of others, and causing extensive damage to the hotel, according to press reports. Associated Press Television News captured footage of one of the explosive-laden vehicles, a cement truck, crashing through the concrete blast walls that guard the Palestine Hotel and the neighboring Sheraton Hotel before detonating.

Identities of the dead and wounded were not immediately known. Agence France-Presse, citing a “senior security source,” said that many of the casualties appeared to involve security guards, hotel staff, and passersby. The AP reported that at least three unidentified photojournalists were injured and taken to hospitals.
The blasts heavily damaged the hotel’s southern exterior, while glass shattered and light fixtures blew out inside, the AP said.
At least 57 journalists and 22 media support staff have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. Insurgent attacks, including crossfire, suicide bombings, and targeted murders, are the leading cause of media fatalities in Iraq—accounting for the deaths of 34 journalist and 18 media support workers.

The Palestine Hotel and Sheraton Hotel have come under rocket fire from insurgents in the past, although there have been no media fatalities from those insurgent attacks. Two journalists did die when a U.S. tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in April 2003; a CPJ investigation later found that the killings were not deliberate but were avoidable.

Insurgent groups have carried out other, bloody bombings against news offices. In 2004, a car bomb ripped through the Baghdad bureau of the Dubai-based satellite broadcaster Al-Arabiya in November, killing five employees and wounding several others. Armed groups also carried out mortar attacks against offices belong to the U.S. backed Iraq Media Network, the national broadcaster.

“These appalling attacks are fresh reminders of the myriad dangers facing those who continue to report from Iraq,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.