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Two journalists among scores killed in insurgent operation in Tikrit

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn that two Iraqi journalists, Sabah al-Bazi and Muammar Khadir Abdelwahad, were among the fatal victims of the devastating 29 March 2011 insurgent attack on the Salahadin provincial council's headquarters in the city of Tikrit (160 km north of Baghdad).

Agence France-Presse quoted a police spokesman as putting the latest toll from the attack at 65 dead and 100 wounded. Saad Khaled, a cameraman working for the satellite TV station Al-Fayhaa, was among the seriously injured.

The insurgent operation began in the early afternoon when gunmen wearing explosive vests seized control of the provincial council building in the city centre, taking advantage of the confusion resulting from a suicide bombing a few minutes earlier outside a nearby public building. A car bomb parked near the entrance of the council building went off 20 minutes later, just as security reinforcements were arriving.

Al-Bazi, a freelance journalist who worked for Al-Arabiya, CNN, Reuters and other international media, was fatally injured by shrapnel from this blast. He had gone to cover a meeting taking place there.

It is not clear exactly how Abdelwahad, who worked for Ayn (Eye Media Agency), died. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory quoted Ayn as saying he was in permanent contact with the agency while in the building. "We lost contact at the moment of the assault by the security forces. We later learned that he was dead."

"We firmly condemn this indiscriminate slaughter in an operation deliberately targeting a public building," Reporters Without Borders said. "We offer our condolences to the families of all the victims of this act of terrorism, including the two journalists. We urge the authorities to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice."

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory paid tribute to Al-Bazi's professional dedication and personal qualities. Aged 30, he was married and the father of three children. Abdelwahad, 39, had worked for Ayn for two years.
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