Two Iraqi journalists working for Sunni-owned TV station kidnapped and killed

Two Iraqi journalists working for a Sunni-owned television station were kidnapped and killed last month, the station said Wednesday.

The slayings of Mohammed Hilal Karji and Sarmad Hamdi al-Hassani were the latest attack targeting Baghdad TV, which is owned by Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday denounced the killings and called on authorities to protect journalists "to avoid further tragedies."

Karji, 27, was kidnapped June 7 outside his home while on his way to work in the Yousifiyah region south of Baghdad, and his bullet-ridden body was found in a morgue the following day, an official at the station said.

Hassani, 43, was seized from his home in Baghdad's Jamia neighborhood on June 27, his body found the next day, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of further reprisals.

"We are again deeply shocked by the news of these repeated attacks on the news media," Reporters Without Borders, which advocates press freedom, said in a statement. "We call on the Iraqi authorities to protect the most exposed journalists to avoid further tragedies."

Baghdad TV has been hit by several attacks in the past few months, the deadliest on April 5, when a suicide bomber exploded his truck at the channel's Baghdad headquarters, then gunmen stormed in, killing the station's deputy director and an assistant. Afterward, the network moved its office to the safer northern region of Sulaimaniyah.

Before Karji and al-Hassani's death, at least 187 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the March 2003 US-led invasion. Two are missing, and there has been no news of 14 others since they were kidnapped, according to the media watchdog.

The vast majority have been Iraqis killed by insurgent groups or militias angered by their coverage or ideologically opposed to their employers. Others have been caught in the crossfire between the opposing sides.

Among them are five employees of The Associated Press who have died violently in Iraq. The most recent was Said M. Fakhry, 26, an AP Television News cameraman shot dead May 31 in his Baghdad neighborhood.