Iraqi journalist who endured abductions, threats is slain in Mosul

New York, June 7, 2007—An Iraqi journalist who had been abducted, shot and threatened with death was slain in Mosul today by unidentified gunmen who answered her cell phone after the killing and told the caller “she went to hell.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the murder of Sahar Hussein Ali al-Haydari, 44, a correspondent for the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA) and the independent news agency Aswat al-Iraq and a contributor to a number of other Iraqi media outlets. She also was a journalist trainee and correspondent for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, an organization that trains local journalists in war coverage.

“We are outraged by the murder of our colleague Sahar Hussein Ali al-Haydari and offer our condolences to her family and friends,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “The constant threats and abductions she endured, and her eventual murder, are stark reminders of the sacrifice she made to tell the Iraqi story to the world. Her death is even harder to bear because she was a personal friend and colleague.”

Al-Haydari visited CPJ’s offices in New York in late 2005, and CPJ helped relocate her husband and four children to Damascus, Syria, after she received death threats.

Al-Haydari was shopping in Mosul’s Al-Hadbaa neighborhood when four unidentified gunmen got out of their vehicle, gunned her down and fled the scene, taking her cell phone with them, local journalists told CPJ.

Earlier, she had been reporting news of a suicide attack on a police station in the nearby town of Al-Rabiya, NINA said. When a police captain called to give her more information, the killers answered her phone, telling him, “She went to hell,” according to a local journalist who spoke with the captain.

Al-Haydari had previously told CPJ that she had received many death threats. Early last year, she was twice targeted for abduction; one attempt failed, and she was rescued the other time. In March 2006, al-Haydari told CPJ she had been shot, requiring surgery. In August 2006, gunmen killed her daughter’s fianc….

In her final e-mail to CPJ, on March 22, al-Haydari said her name was fourth on a death list comprised of journalists and police officers. It had been circulated throughout Mosul and posted on her house door. According to Aswat al-Iraq, the list was issued by the “Emir of the Islamic State in Mosul,” the local leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq.

Al-Haydari is the second employee for Aswat al-Iraq killed this year. On May 30, Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi, 38, was gunned down in the southern city of Al-Amarah.

At least 106 journalists, including al-Haydari, and 39 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in CPJ’s 26-year history. About four in five media deaths have been Iraqis.