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Eleven of editor's relatives murdered in Baghdad following Shiite militia threats against him

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is shocked by the murders of 11 close relatives of Dia al-Kawwaz, the Amman-based editor of the online newspaper "Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq", in an attack on his family home on 25 November 2007 in Baghdad. Kawwaz recently received telephone threats from Iraqi militia members.

"We call on the government to order an investigation to identify those responsible for this carnage and to bring them to justice," RSF said. "The impunity reigning in Baghdad for the past five years encourages attacks on journalists and their families. It is even more disturbing when security forces see what is happening and yet take no action. Police at a security checkpoint near the Kawwaz family home failed to intervene or give chase."

RSF added: "Iraqi journalists are defenceless and powerless in the face of the militias operating in the capital. Like Kawwaz, hundreds of them have sought refuge abroad but the relatives who have remained in Iraq are exposed to reprisals."

According to a report posted on the "Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq" website, around five gunmen entered the Kawwaz family home in the northeast Baghdad neighbourhood of Al-Shaab shortly after 7 a.m. (local time) on 25 November and shot dead two of Kawwaz's sisters, their husbands and their seven children, aged 5 to 10. They then blew up the house before leaving in a vehicle with no licence plates. Neighbours said police at a nearby post did not intervene.

Kawwaz told RSF he recently received telephone threats from members of the Shiite Badr militia that is the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Aged 46, Kawwaz is known for being very critical of Shiite leaders in the government and of Iranian meddling in Iraqi politics.

Created in 2002, "Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq" is an online newspaper specializing in Iraqi politics. Kawwaz edits it from the Jordanian capital of Amman because of the dangers for journalists working inside Iraq.

At least 206 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003. There are also 14 Iraqi journalists of whom there has been no news since they were kidnapped.

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