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Iraq Transition

Arab TV journalists killed in Iraq

Atwar Bahjat, 30, had joined Al-Arabiya this year from Al-Jazeera.


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three journalists for Al-Arabiya television, including a well-known woman correspondent, were kidnapped and killed while covering sectarian violence in Samarra, police and the Arabic-language channel said.

The bodies of Atwar Bahjat and her cameraman and soundman were found early Thursday near the city 60 miles north of Baghdad, local law enforcement officials said.

Bahjat had been reporting live Wednesday from the outskirts of Samarra, which security forces had sealed off after an explosion at a Shiite mosque. (Full story)

Officials at the Dubai-based satellite news channel said they lost contact with their team after their last broadcast at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) Wednesday.

A fourth team member managed to escape from the ambush and told police about the kidnappings.

He said two gunmen pulled up in a pickup truck, shooting in the air and shouting: "We want the correspondent," The Associated Press quoted Al-Arabiya as reporting.

"Atwar was in the news van and shouted to the crowd to help her. The crew tried to speak to the gunmen, but they snatched them and took them an unknown location. By this time, night had fallen," Reuters quoted Al-Arabiya's Baghdad correspondent Ahmed al-Saleh as telling viewers.

Saleh said the bodies had been dumped near the town of Dawr near Samarra. All three were Iraqi citizens.

The bullet-riddled bodies were found near their vehicle, cameras and satellite dish, police Capt. Laith Muhammad told AP.

Saleh said Bahjat "is a victim of telling the truth. ... She loved her country and died because of her impartiality."

Al-Arabiya spokesman Jihad Ballout said Bahjat, 30, had joined the channel this year after working for rival Al Jazeera, Reuters reported. She is survived by her mother and sister.

In a statement, the channel said Bahjat was "known for her professional integrity and objectivity."

"Atwar was also the embodiment of non-sectarian harmony -- her father is a Sunni while her mother is a Shia Muslim."

The other two dead were Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi, 39, and Adnan Khairallah, 36, according to the channel. They were employed by Wasan Media in Iraq and were working for Al-Arabiya at the time.

In its statement, the channel called for authorities to pursue measures to "enhance the safety of journalists active in Iraq" and bring the killers to justice.

"Once again, Al-Arabiya News Channel pays the ultimate price for persistently pursuing the truth," the statement said.

"Until this new tragedy, Al-Arabiya lost a total of eight colleagues in Iraq, five of whom died in a car bomb that targeted Al-Arabiya's bureau in Baghdad, while three lost their lives as a result of U.S. fire.

"Also, Jawad Khathem, Al-Arabiya's reporter in Iraq, was the target of an armed kidnap attempt that resulted in him being paralyzed from the waist down."

More than 60 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003, AP reported.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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