SAMARRA, Iraq (AP) – The bodies of three Iraqi journalists, including a well-known correspondent for Al-Arabiya television, were found Thursday near Samarra, police and the Arabic network said.
Al-Arabiya’s Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues from the local Wassan media company, engineer Adnan Khairullah and cameraman Khalid Mahmoud, were in the city to cover the bombing Wednesday of a revered Shiite shrine. Their employers lost contact with them Wednesday night.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found Thursday morning near their vehicle, cameras and satellite dish on the outskirts of the city 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police Capt. Laith Muhammad said.
“I can confirm that they have been killed,” said Jawad al-Hatab, head of the Al-Arabiya office in Baghdad. The three journalists had been reporting live Wednesday from the edge of Samarra, which was sealed off by security forces after the early morning explosion at the Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque. Bahjat’s last broadcast was at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), Al-Arabiya said.
The team was preparing to return to Kirkuk when two gunmen pulled up in pickup truck, shooting in the air and shouting: “We want the correspondent,” according to a cameraman who evaded capture, Al-Arabiya reported.
The three were taken away, and their bodies were found about 10 kilometers (six miles) northeast of Samarra, police and Al-Arabiya said.
Bahjat left Al-Jazeera television in December to join Al-Arabiya.
More than 60 other journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003, including three other correspondents for Al-Arabiya.
In September 2004, correspondent Mazen al-Tumeizi was killed in downtown Baghdad when a U.S. helicopter opened fire to destroy an American vehicle disabled by a car bomb. In March that year, correspondent Ali al-Khatib and cameraman Ali Abdel-Aziz were killed near a U.S. military checkpoint while covering the aftermath of a rocket attack on the Burj al-Hayat hotel in Baghdad.
Another Al-Arabiya corespondent, Jawad Kadhim was injured last year when gunmen shot him in a failed attempt to kidnap him.