Gunmen storm Baghdad radio station, killing one

New York, May 3, 2007—Dozens of heavily armed gunmen stormed an independent radio station in Baghdad’s Al-Jamia district today, killing one employee, destroying equipment, and knocking the station off the air. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s assault on Radio Dijla.

Around 2:30 p.m. local time, dozens of masked gunmen attacked Radio Dijla with missiles and heavy machine guns, killing guard Adel al-Badri and injuring two other guards, Karim Yousef, acting director-general, told CPJ. The gunmen seized the first floor of the two-story building, causing Radio Dijla’s 25 employees to flee to the second floor and fight off the attack, he said.

The assailants set off an explosive on the first floor, destroying the station’s broadcast equipment, Yousef said. The gunmen fled shortly before Iraqi security forces arrived. Yousef told CPJ he called the security forces 10 minutes into the attack; his staff, he said, fought the gunmen for more than 30 minutes before they were rescued. The damage, Yousef said, is so extensive that the station cannot immediately return to the air.

“As horrific as this assault is, attacks on Iraqi journalists happen regularly. This attack underscores the unending dangers for the press in Iraq,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

Earlier this morning, gunmen attempted to abduct four of Radio Dijla’s employees while on their way to work in Al-Jamia district, Yousef told CPJ. The station’s driver sped off and narrowly avoided capture, he said.

Radio Dijla is considered an independent news outlet. “We don’t belong to … any political or sectarian sides and we accept all Iraqi voices,” Yousef said. “We asked the government several times to protect the road, to protect the station, but unfortunately to no avail.”

Radio Dijla staff has been targeted before. On March 17, four masked gunmen seized Karim Manhal, a news presenter and editor for Radio Dijla, and the station’s driver, Thamir Sabri, as they were heading to work in Baghdad’s Al-Jamia neighborhood. A passenger and colleague, Rana al-Samaraee, was allowed to go free. The abduction took place near the station’s offices. They are still missing.

In December 2006, unidentified gunmen killed Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, 36, a news editor for Radio Dijla, shortly after he left his home in Baghdad’s al-Washash neighborhood. On September 13, 2006, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Muhammad Abdul Rahman, 55, a former broadcaster for the station. CPJ is investigating the circumstances behind his abduction.