Al-Azzawi, news anchor for the local Salaheddin TV station, was one of five staff members killed when armed militants attacked the channel’s headquarters in Tikrit, according to an executive at the station who did not want to be named for security reasons.
The other victims were the newsroom director, Raad Yassin Al-Baddi; video editor Jamal Abdul-Nasser Sami; Arabic language expert Ahmed Khattab Omar; and archives director Mohammed Abdul-Hameed.
The state-owned Iraqiya TV channel is located in the same compound, but all of its journalists managed to escape to safety.
News reports cited a post on jihadi media forums in which the Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) purportedly declared responsibility for the attack. The statement accused Salaheddin of distorting the facts and warring against the Sunni people. It also called the Iraqiya channel "Safavid," a sectarian remark which equates the channel with Shia Iran. Survivors of the attack told the local press freedom group the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iraq (SDPFIQ) that the assailants were ISIS members.
There were conflicting reports on how many assailants attacked the building. Most reports were consistent, however, in saying the attack began with a bomb outside the building, with gunmen wearing suicide belts then rushing inside and taking the staff hostage. After several hours, Iraqi security forces managed to retake the building, but only after some of the assailants detonated their belts. The rest of the gunmen were killed by security forces. It is not clear if the victims died from the explosions, from direct fire from the gunmen, or in the crossfire.
There were also conflicting reports on the number of injured staff after the assault. The Iraq Journalists Syndicated reported that eight staff members had been wounded, but did not offer further details. SDPFIQ reported that two cameramen, Ahmed Ibrahim and Ali Ghalib, had been injured.
CNN reported that in the wake of the attack, the channel stopped broadcasting until further notice, and the channel’s live feed on its website was not working when accessed by CPJ in the days after the attack.
Militant groups ISIS have historically targeted journalists whom it considers collaborators with the Iraqi government, according to CPJ research.