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Conflict Takes Deadly Toll on Journalists, Especially Those From Iraq

by Christian Berthelsen

BAGHDAD - Five Iraqi journalists were killed in separate attacks Sunday, marking one of the deadliest days for reporters covering war-torn country in nearly a year.

Four reporters for Iraqi media organizations were reported shot to death in ambushes near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Previously reported was the death of Salih Saif Aldin, a correspondent for The Washington Post who apparently was shot to death Sunday while on assignment in the dangerous Sadiyah neighborhood of southwest Baghdad.

Iraqi journalists have faced the greatest dangers covering the war in Iraq, and they have borne the brunt of deaths among reporters. Western media organizations rely on Iraqi journalists for street reporting, going where foreign correspondents often cannot go because of the dangers to Westerners. Although they speak the language and blend in more easily, the Iraqi reporters often face equal threats: Iraqis discovered working for Western media organizations are treated as enemy collaborators.

"Two years ago, murder became the leading cause of journalist deaths in Iraq, overtaking crossfire," said Joel Campagna, the Middle East project coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "That's a trend that has continued to this day, and the overwhelming number of victims are Iraqi journalists."

Before Sunday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had tallied 118 reporter deaths in Iraq since the United States invasion in 2003. Of those, roughly 85 percent were Iraqis. In recent months, several major news organizations, including ABC, Reuters, The New York Times and CBS all had lost Iraqi correspondents.

Both of the other attacks on Iraqi journalists Sunday happened north of Baghdad. Near Hawija, Ziyad Tareq Ahmed, a reporter for the Iraqi Sahrin newspaper in Tikrit, was ambushed by gunmen on a highway while traveling with two relatives. All three were killed.

Later in the evening, three reporters for the Watan newspaper were ambushed and killed by gunmen southwest of Kirkuk, according to Colonel Yakar Mohammed of the Kirkuk police. They had just accompanied an Iraqi politician to an airport and were on their way back when they were intercepted. In Iraq's worst day for reporter deaths, six journalists and five support staff members were killed a year ago when gunmen attacked the Al Shaabiya television station in Baghdad.

© 2007 The Los Angeles Times

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