Iraqi soldiers outside Al-Arabiya's office in central Baghdad after a suicide bombing today. (Ali Al-Saadi/AFP)
Iraqi soldiers outside Al-Arabiya's office in central Baghdad after a suicide bombing today. (Ali Al-Saadi/AFP)

Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for Al-Arabiya bombing

New York, July 26, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a suicide attack on Al-Arabiya’s  bureau in Baghdad. The attack killed three of the satellite news channel’s support staff, according to Tareq Maher, an Al-Arabiya journalist who was inside the building during the blast.

Maher said on air after the explosion that a suicide bomber had detonated a vehicle in front of the bureau at 9:25 a.m., leaving a massive crater. “The bureau is completely ruined, there is no room left that is not destroyed,” he said by audio feed as the station ran a still photo of him. Three employees were killed–two security guards and a cleaning woman. Sixteen other people were wounded, according to the news channel’s website. Al-Arabiya reported that the site was immediately surrounded by security forces following the explosion.

Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta al-Moussawi told Agence France-Presse that these are “the methods of al-Qaeda.” The New York Times reported that Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia took credit today for the bombing, “suggesting the attack was in response to a broadcast about the influence of the group.” The Times quoted a statement from the group’s website as saying, “Wait for more.”

 The head of the army’s explosives unit, Major General Jihad al-Jaabari told Al-Arabiya that the car was carrying about 282 pounds (128 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate.

“Today’s attack on Al-Arabiya’s offices is a reminder that journalists in Iraq continue to operate in a very dangerous environment,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “We call on the Iraqi authorities to investigate this crime and hold the perpetrators to account.”

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, 141 journalists have been killed in Iraq, according to CPJ research.

Al-Arabiya has suffered multiple assaults since it opened its Baghdad bureau in September 2003. On June 25, the broadcaster shut down its Baghdad office after receiving an anonymous tip that there were plans to attack the office. It re-opened shortly after. Atwar Bahjat, an Al-Arabiya correspondent and a 2006 CPJ International Press Freedom awardee, was murdered near Samarra in February 2006, along with her crew, cameraman Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and engineer Adnan Khairallah. In 2008, the news channel’s Baghdad bureau chief, Jawad Hattab, escaped a car bomb attack. In 2004 three journalists from Al-Arabiya–Ali al-Khatib, Ali Abdel Aziz, Mazen al-Tumeizi–were killed by American fire. 

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert has been modified in the first two paragraphs to correct the number of staff fatalities. Initial news reports said three staffers were killed, but subsequent research by CPJ found that three had been killed.