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RSF condemns police's passive response to two armed attacks on radio station in one day

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced deep concern about two armed attacks on privately-owned Radio Dijla in Baghdad on 3 May 2007 that left one person dead and two wounded. The organisation also condemned the death of Russian freelance photographer Dmitry Chebotayev on 5 May in a bombing targeted at the US military unit with which he was embedded. He was on assignment for the Russian edition of "Newsweek" magazine (see IFEX alert of 7 May 2007).

"The two attacks on Radio Dijla, one after the other, were like military raids," Reporters Without Borders said. "This independent station was assaulted by an organised military force equipped with heavy artillery. The attack took place in central Baghdad without any intervention from police units patrolling nearby. The Iraqi authorities must shoulder some of the blame for this latest episode in the cycle of violence against journalists and the media."

The press freedom organisation added: "Chebotayev's death highlights the risks that foreign journalists continue to take in order to cover Iraq, whether or not they are embedded with any military force. We offer our condolences to his family and to 'Newsweek''s management."

About 10 gunmen launched the first of the two attacks on Radio Dijla in the west Baghdad neighbourhood of Al Jami'a at around 9 a.m. (local time). The employees were able to hold them off using firearms previously provided by the management as a security precaution. At the same time, four employees eluded a kidnapping attempt by escaping into the station's premises.

The station appealed to the police and military authorities for help, but no help was sent during the attack, which lasted half an hour. The gunmen shot security guard Adel Al-Badri dead and wounded two other employees.

The second attack took place several hours later, after all the employees had abandoned the building, and was presumably carried out by the same group. They set off explosives on the building's first floor and started a fire, destroying the station's transmitter and causing extensive damage. Radio Dijla nonetheless hoped to resume broadcasting with 72 hours.

Chebotayev was fatally injured by a roadside bomb in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, which killed six members of the US Task Force "Lightning" unit with which he was embedded. He was the first foreign journalist to be killed in Iraq since the start of the year.

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