Rebels hit Syrian TV station

7 killed in deadly strike

Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early on Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said.

The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a “massacre.”
Al-Ikhbariya is privately-owned TV channel but strongly supports President Bashar Assad’s regime. Pro-government journalists have been attacked on several previous occasions during the country’s 15-month uprising, although such incidents are comparatively rare.

Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi said the killings were “a massacre against the freedom of the press” in remarks broadcast on state TV. He later told reporters that it had been carried out by terrorists — the same word the government uses for rebels.

Rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several massive suicide attacks this year suggesting Al-Qaeda or other extremists are joining the fray. Many in the opposition consider the media an arm of the regime. Syria does not have a free press and most news organisations are either state-run or private bodies that carry the government’s point of view. Most of the private TV stations and newspapers are owned by politicians or wealthy businessmen who have close links to the regime.

Assad denies that there is any popular will behind the uprising, saying terrorists are behind a conspiracy to destroy the country. Al-Zoebi, the information minister, said gunmen stormed the station’s compound in the town of Drousha, about 20 kilometers south of the capital Damascus, and detonated explosives. He said the attackers killed seven people and kidnapped others.

An employee at the station said several other staffers were wounded in the attack, which happened just before 4.00 am local time. He said the gunmen kidnapped him along with several station guards. He was released but the guards were not.

The employee, who did not give his name for fear of repercussions, said the gunmen drove him about 200 metres away, and then he heard the explosion of the station being demolished. “I was terrified when they blindfolded me and took me away,” the man said by telephone.

Earlier this month, two Al-Ikhbariya employees were shot and seriously wounded by gunmen in the northwestern town of Haffa while covering clashes between government troops and insurgents.
Hours after the attack, the station was still on the air, broadcasting a rally in Damascus’ main square against the station raid.

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