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Gunmen storm Iraqi TV station, kill 11 including board chairman

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Gunmen, some of them in police uniforms, stormed the downtown Baghdad headquarters of a new satellite television station Thursday, 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 Shiite 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 are also said to sometimes disguise themselves as police when they carry out attacks. The station had a mixed staff, and the slain chairman was a Shiite who had been jailed under Saddam Hussein.
    Journalists have frequently been targeted 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,’’ he said.
    Several employees managed to run away when the assault began, and there were two wounded survivors — the program director and chief producer — who were in the hospital in critical condition, Kamil said.
    Kamil said he could not even speculate on who may have been behind the attack and said the station, which had so far made only 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 Shiites, and we are keen to maintain such a balance,’’ he said in a telephone interview.
    Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf blamed the attack on ‘‘a gang of criminals’’ and said investigations were underway to determine who was behind it.
    Kamil said that even though there was evidence some 100 shots were fired, nobody heard the gunfire, and also no windows were damaged, indicating the attackers may have used silenced pistols and killed their victims at close range.
    The head of the station’s board of directors, Abdul-Raheem Nasrallah, was killed, along with station technicians and two guards, Kamil said. Nasrallah, a Shiite, was a former military officer who was jailed during Saddam’s rule, then fled to Norway after his release, returning after Saddam’s fall, Kamil said.
    Despite the losses, he said the station still plans to start its broadcasting as scheduled.
    The motivation behind the attack was not immediately clear, but 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.
    In another attack on Iraqi media, police said the family of a 29-year-old Kurdish radio reporter who was abducted a week ago had identified his body in the Baghdad morgue.
    Azad Mohammed Hussein was kidnapped in northeastern Baghdad by unidentified gunmen while on his way to Dar al-Salam radio headquarters in the capital’s Shaab neighborhood. His body was turned into the morgue Tuesday and identified by his family on Wednesday, police Capt. Ali al-Obaidi said.
    The U.S. command said Thursday that one American soldier was killed and two others injured in action in northern Iraq on Wednesday. The three soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, but no further details were released.
    The soldier’s death brings the total number of American troops who have died in October in Iraq to 41.
    At least 30 Iraqis were killed in violence around the country. In Baghdad, a synchronized bomb attack killed five and wounded 11 others, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majid said.
    First a car bomb parked in central Baghdad’s Qurtaba Square exploded, followed shortly afterward by second device planted on the roadside nearby, Majid said. One policeman was among the dead.
    Insurgents are making increasing use of the tactic of detonating one bomb to draw attention to a spot, then a second to cause high casualties among onlookers and rescue workers.
    In a similar attack, a bomb exploded at 7 a.m. near a Shiite mosque in the Qahira neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad. Two minutes later another bomb exploded nearby, wounding four people who had gathered at the place of the first explosion, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said.
    In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, a bomb attack in a residential district killed a woman and wounded six other people, police Capt. Laith Mohammed said.
    In Suwayrah, 25 miles down river from Baghdad, authorities fished four bodies out of the Tigris River that showed signs of torture.
    Two of the victims had their throats cut and two others had been shot, said Hadi al-Attan, an official with the Kut morgue where the bodies were taken. All were blindfolded and had their hands and legs bound, he said.
    According to new figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry, more than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad in September— 400 more than the month before despite an intensified U.S.-Iraqi sweep aimed at reining in violence.
    The numbers indicate how tough the vital battle to secure Baghdad has proven amid a wave of bloodshed this year, not only from Sunni Arab insurgents but also from Shiite and Sunni death squads who kidnap and kill members of the opposing sect.
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