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Radio Free Europe correspondent missing, likely kidnapped, her driver shot dead

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders said it was extremely worried by the disappearance of an Iraqi correspondent of the United States-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Her driver's body was found after she went missing on 22 October 2007 in Baghdad. Two RFE/RL correspondents have already been killed since the start of the year.

"The circumstances of her disappearance suggest she could have been kidnapped," the press freedom organisation said. "The number of kidnappingsof journalists has fallen this year, compared with the previous two years, but yesterday's development suggests that the threat still exists. Journalists working for government-funded media, especially those funded by the US government, continue to be a favourite target of the armed militia operating in Iraq."

In four years, Iraq has become one the world's biggest centres for hostage-taking. A total of 85 media workers have been kidnapped since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Of these, 43 have been released, 27 were murdered by their abductors, and the fate of the other 15, including the RFE/RL correspondent, is unknown.

Iraq is also the world's deadliest country for the media with a total of 205 journalists and media assistants murdered since March 2003.

The name of the RFE/RL correspondent who went missing on 22 October has not been released. RFE/RL said police found her driver's body in the northeast Baghdad neighbourhood of Al-Bonuk. He was shot dead. So far, no trace of the journalist or her car has been found and no group has claimed responsibility for her abduction.

The two RFE/RL correspondents already killed in 2007 are Khamail Khalaf and Nizar Al-Radhi. Khalaf was kidnapped by two gunmen as he left his office in Baghdad on 3 April. His body was found two days later (see IFEX alert of 5 April 2007). Radhi was killed when gunmen opened fire on a group of journalists who had gone to a news conference in the city of Amara, 365 km south of Baghdad, on 30 May (see alerts of 4 June and 31 May 2007).

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