- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

12:45 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Gunmen, some of them in police uniforms, stormed the downtown Baghdad headquarters of a new satellite television station today, killing the board chairman and 10 others in the second attack on an Iraqi station in the capital in as many weeks.

The motive for the attack was not clear, though there were signs it was carried out by Shi’ite militiamen. Sunnis say the militias often have help from police — and in its few short broadcasts, the station played nationalist music against the U.S. occupation, perhaps prompting militiamen to assume it sympathized with Sunni insurgents.

Sunni insurgents also are said to disguise themselves sometimes as police when they carry out attacks. The station had a mixed staff, and the slain chairman was a Shi’ite who had been jailed under Saddam Hussein.

Journalists have been targeted frequently in both the insurgency and the spiral of sectarian killings in Iraq.

After the attack, blood stained the polished floors of the Shaabiya station building, which housed its studio and offices, and bullet casings lay scattered around.

The station was founded in July and was working around the clock to get ready to start broadcasting after the end of Ramadan in about two weeks, so a lot of people were in the office even though the attack came at 7 a.m., executive director Hassan Kamil said. He added that some of those killed had been sleeping.

Around two dozen gunmen, some in police uniforms, drove up to the building in six civilian cars, stormed in and “eliminated most of those present,” Mr. Kamil said.

Several employees managed to run away when the assault began, and two wounded survivors — the program director and chief producer — were in the hospital in critical condition, he said.

The head of the station’s board of directors, Abdul-Raheem Nasrallah, was killed, along with station technicians and two guards, Mr. Kamil said. Mr. Nasrallah, a Shi’ite, was a former military officer who was jailed during Saddam’s rule, then fled to Norway after his release, returning after Saddam’s fall, Mr. Kamil said.

Despite the losses, he said the station still plans to start its broadcasting as scheduled.

Mr. Kamil said the station, which so far had made just a few test broadcasts, had received no threats.

“We have good relations with all political and religious parties and groups, with the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, and we are keen to maintain such a balance,” he said in a telephone interview.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdel-Karim Khalaf blamed the attack on “a gang of criminals” and said investigations were under way to determine who was behind it.

It was the second attack on a television station in the capital this month. On Oct. 1, a parked car bomb blew up outside the local al-Rafidain TV station. The blast killed two pedestrians and wounded five station employees, while blowing out windows of the building and causing other damage to the offices.

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