Bus bomb kills 6 at Baghdad office of Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya, say police

By Rebecca Santana, AP
Monday, July 26, 2010

Bomb kills 6 at Baghdad office of Arab channel

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber driving a minibus blew himself up in front of the Baghdad office of a popular Arabic-language satellite news channel early Monday, killing six people, police and hospital officials said.

The bomber was apparently waved through the first checkpoint at the Al-Arabiya television station after security guards checked his identification, said Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi.

Al-Moussawi said Iraqi officials had previously found al-Qaida documents indicating the militant group planned to target Arabic news channels in the country. He said the channel had been informed.

“This has the clear fingerprints of al-Qaida,” al-Moussawi told the channel.

Police and hospital official said three guards, a driver, a passer-by and a 50-year-old cleaner were killed in the attack. The attack also wounded 16 people, including guards working for former deputy prime minister Salam al-Zubaie, who lives nearby.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Al-Arabiya correspondent Tarek Maher said the blast heavily damaged the building and left a massive crater.

He added that the relatively low death toll was because none of the station’s administrative staff were in the office at the time of the blast.

Al-Arabiya is among the most popular Arabic news stations, but has been viewed by militants in Iraq as too pro-Western. The station regularly interviews U.S. presidents and has been targeted in the past.

Two years ago, the television’s Baghdad bureau manager escaped assassination when a bomb was found under the seat of his car as he prepared to leave home for work.

Attacks on journalists had been common during the height of Iraq’s insurgency in 2006 and 2007, but have tapered off amid improving security over the past couple of years.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 142 journalists and media workers have been killed since March 2003.

But journalists — local and foreign — remain a high-profile target for militants.

In January, militants targeted three Baghdad hotels, popular with Western journalists, killing 41 people and wounding more than 100.

In other violence, a bomb loaded with nails and hidden in a pile of garbage exploded in northern town of Beiji, killing three people, hospital officials said.

Dr. Saad Muhsin, who works at the Beiji hospital, said that the explosion wounded five others.

Violence has declined sharply in Iraq. But concerns are mounting that militants are looking to take advantage of the political vacuum resulting from politicians’ inability to form a government four months after the March elections as the U.S. draws down its combat forces to 50,000 by the end of August.

Associated Press Writer Bushra Juhi and Hamid Ahmed contributed.

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