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Bomb kills TV cameraman, his driver near checkpoint

Times Staff Writer

An Iraqi television cameraman for a Shiite-backed satellite news station was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near a security checkpoint in Balad, about 50 miles north of the capital, station officials said Wednesday.

The blast also killed a driver and seriously injured a female reporter, who remains hospitalized, the station said.

Alaa Abdulkareem Fartusi, 29, is the first journalist to die this year in Iraq, which has become the world’s deadliest place to cover a story, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Fartusi, who had worked for two years at Al Forat, a station funded by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 1 and 3.

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“Apart from being a colleague, he was a very good friend,” Al Forat reporter Ahmed Mehdi said. “He was always optimistic, always happy. If there was sadness, he would be the one smiling trying to console everyone. We miss him as a friend more than anything else.”

Fartusi was part of a crew traveling to Samarra for a story commemorating the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque, one of the major Shiite shrines in Iraq. The group members left Baghdad on Monday and spent the night in Balad.

They were headed to Samarra on Tuesday morning when the bomb exploded, striking their Dodge van, Mehdi said.

The station does not believe the crew was specifically targeted, Mehdi said.

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At least 126 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 -- more than have been killed covering any other conflict, according to statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In addition, 51 journalists have been kidnapped and 50 media support workers, including drivers, bodyguards and interpreters, have been killed in Iraq during the same period.

In Hamiya, south of Baghdad, a dispute broke out Tuesday night between local police and members of the U.S.-backed Awakening Council, a volunteer Sunni Arab security force.

The disagreement centered on at least five, but as many as 25, council members who were allegedly falsely jailed.

Accounts of the incident varied, with police and local officials saying that members of the council attacked the police station and tried to steal weapons.

Iraqi army and Awakening Council officials said the matter was resolved after a brief dispute that did not result in any casualties. The detained security force members were all released.

Sabah Janabi, head of the local Awakening Council, said the accounts had been exaggerated in an effort to incite sectarianism and sabotage the council’s efforts.

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kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

Times staff writer Said Rifai and special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.


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