9 February 2005
Unknown group claims killing of Al-Hurra correspondent
A previously unknown group calling itself the Brigades of Imam Al-Hassan Al-Basri has claimed responsibility for today's murder of a correspondent of the US-financed TV station Al-Hurra. In a message posted on an Islamist website, the group said it had "liquidated the apostate agent Abdel Hussein Khazaal."
The message, which could not be authenticated, accused him "of being a member of the Badr Brigade, the former militia of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Irak and of being an Iranian agent."
Gunmen kill journalist who worked for US-financed TV station
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemned the murder today of Abdel Hussein Khazaal, a correspondent of the US-financed, Arabic-language TV station Al-Hurra, who was gunned down outside his home in the southern city of Basra. His three-year-old son, who was with him, was also killed.
"This horrible act serves as reminder that Iraq is the world's most dangerous country for journalists, with 32 killed since the start of the war in March 2003," the press freedom organization said.
"We have the impression that Khazaal was targeted because he worked for a US television station but, in so doing, his killers are not rendering any service to the population, they are slowly killing off news reporting in Iraq and in the end, it is the Iraqis who will pay," Reporters Without Borders warned.
The organization called on the Iraqi interim government to conduct a swift and serious investigation to identify those responsible for the killing.
Aged 40, Khazaal and his son Mohammed were slain by gunmen at about 9 a.m. as they were leaving their home in the Mazal neighbourhood of Basra, 550 km south of Baghdad. Khazaal was also head of the press department at the Basra city council and a member of the Shiite party Dawa. He had been in exile under Saddam Hussein.
His last report for Al-Hurra (which means "The Free" in Arabic) was about the 30 January elections. Launched in February 2004, the TV station has been branded as a US propaganda tool by a number of imams.
Of the total of at least 32 journalists and 15 media assistants killed in Iraq since the start of the war, 26 have been Iraqi.