2 ABC Journalists Killed In Iraq

Blackened asphalt and spare parts are seen at the site of an attack that left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator dead, and three other soldiers missing in Cargouli village, near Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq Thursday, May 17, 2007.
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
Two Iraqi journalists working for ABC News in Baghdad were ambushed and killed as they drove home from work, the television network announced Friday.

The attack took place Thursday afternoon, when unknown assailants attacked the car carrying cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26, from the network's Baghdad bureau, ABC News President David Westin said in a statement posted on the ABC News Web site.

ABC said the men were returning home from work at the network's Baghdad bureau when their vehicle was ambushed by two cars full of unknown gunmen.

Journalists have been frequently targeted by violence in Iraq. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded 102 journalists and 39 media support workers killed and 48 journalists abducted since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Those numbers do not include those killed in the latest attack.

Last week, three journalists were killed along with their driver in a drive-by shooting near the northern city of Kirkuk. Gunmen also stormed the offices of the independent Radio Dijla in a predominantly Sunni area in western Baghdad earlier this month, killing two employees and wounding five before destroying the building and knocking the station off the air.

Earlier Friday about 50 suspected insurgents attacked a U.S. base in the center of a city north of the capital, sparking a battle with U.S. soldiers and helicopters that killed at least six militants, the Iraqi army said.

The fighting took place in Baqouba, a Sunni insurgent stronghold that has seen a recent spike in violence largely blamed on militants who fled a 3-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the massive search for three missing U.S. soldiers believed to have been kidnapped by al Qaeda-linked insurgents entered its seventh day.

Col. Michael Kershaw, the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division who was overseeing the mission, said the teams were talking to local Iraqis, hoping to find information that would lead them to the soldiers.

"Everyone is motivated and knows the importance of finding the soldiers," he said in a statement from Quarghuli, a village 12 miles south of Baghdad where a May 12 ambush killed four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi, and left three American troops missing.

The soldiers were captured in an ambush on their two-vehicle patrol. Maj. Webster Wright, a U.S. military spokesman, said the soldiers had been in position for eight to 12 hours when a large number of insurgents crept up on them through the foliage, cut concertina wire and attacked from all directions.

The attack appeared aimed at capturing soldiers, because there were signs that a getaway car was used, he said.

On Thursday, U.S. officials expressed cautious optimism that the missing soldiers were still alive even as troops drained canals and questioned children in the search. FBI agents and Australian forensic experts also took part in the operation.

Meanwhile, Army officials have identified the fourth soldier killed Saturday in the ambush, a newspaper reported late Thursday. Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev., was identified by DNA testing, the soldier's relatives told the Reno Gazette Journal. Three other soldiers killed in the ambush had previously been identified.

In other developments:

  • The military said five U.S. soldiers have been killed in two separate attacks in Iraq. Three of the soldiers died Friday following an explosion near a military vehicle in the Diyala Province. The other two soldiers were killed Thursday while conducting operations in the southern part of Baghdad. Those deaths, along with three others yesterday south of Baghdad, raise the number of U.S. military members who have died since the start of the Iraq war to at least 3,408.
  • The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political party has left for the United States for medical checkups after complaining of exhaustion and high blood pressure, two officials said Friday. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim flew to the United States on Wednesday, according to one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
  • The Iraqi Accord Front announced Thursday that the brother of Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani had been kidnapped this week by militants. A spokesperson for the party said masked gunmen kidnapped Mohammad Mashhadani Wednesday in Baghdad and are holding him at an undisclosed location, according to the Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.

    At 7 a.m. Friday, the day of rest in mostly Muslim Iraq, about 50 suspected insurgents opened fire on a U.S.-Iraqi base in downtown Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, wounding two Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi army officer said.

    U.S. forces and helicopters responded at 7:30 a.m., killing at least six insurgents, the Iraqi army officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

    Residents said the fighting sent smoke billowing up from neighborhoods in the area.

    One resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from militants, said he heard heavy machine gun fire and then men shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is great in Arabic. Others said they saw U.S. tanks and armored vehicles driving through the street, while aircraft flew overhead.

    The base was set up two months ago in a three-story city office building that was abandoned because of the violence in the area, the Iraqi officer said.

    The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the incident.

    Baqouba and the rest of the Diyala province have been hit by a string of attacks this week.

    Gunmen hijacked a bus in Baqouba and took 23 passengers hostage, a car bomb exploded near a market in a Shiite village, killing at least 32 people, and five civilians were killed execution style in broad daylight in the city by gunmen who appeared to be accusing them of collaborating with the U.S.-led forces.