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Militants in Iraq storm TV station; anchor among dead

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling, CNN
updated 2:28 PM EST, Mon December 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Suicide bomber kills five employees at a TV station in Tikrit
  • NEW: At least 19 others reported dead in and around Baghdad, Mosul and Baquba
  • Authorities impose a curfew on Tikrit; TV station stops broadcasting
  • UNESCO and Committee to Protect Journalists denounce threats and killings of journalists

(CNN) -- A news anchor and four other people were killed on Monday in a suicide bombing after armed militants stormed a TV complex in Tikrit, Iraq, police said.

The violence unfolded when a car bomb exploded outside Salaheddin TV and the local offices of al Iraqiya state TV in Tikrit, a major city in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad.

Militants then stormed the offices and a suicide bomber killed five employees inside Salaheddin TV, including a female anchor and the head of its news department, police said.

At least two attackers wore explosive vests.

Security forces arrived at the scene, fought the attackers and regained control of the building, police said.

Authorities imposed a curfew on Tikrit, and Salaheddin TV stopped broadcasting until further notice.

Political and sectarian violence has plagued Iraq throughout the year, with thousands of deaths reported. Tensions have pervaded the Sunni community, which has felt marginalized by the Shiite-dominated government.

Iraq's unrest reaches world of journalism

Journalists haven't been immune from the terror. Before the latest violence, Irina Bokova, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, denounced the killings of eight journalists in Iraq this year.

"Violence against media workers undermines the ability of journalists to carry out their work freely as well as the right of citizens to receive the independent information they need," Bokova said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group, said in a report this month that journalists have been subjected to threats and killings. The report focused on unrest in Mosul, the religiously and ethnically diverse city in Iraq's north.

"These killings are a significant deterioration from 2012, a landmark year in which no journalists were killed for their work in Iraq for the first time since the 2003 American invasion," the report said.

"That brief reprieve was part of a larger decrease in overall political violence, but that reprieve now seems to be over. And just as the underlying causes of political violence in Iraq were never resolved, neither have the underlying drivers of violence against journalists. There are simply too many triggermen ready to silence journalists, knowing full well that there is little that can stop them."

Other violence

Violence occurred in other regions of Iraq on Monday, police said.

At least six soldiers were killed when mortar rounds landed on a military base near Baghdad.

Four people died when gunmen attacked pet stores in southern Baghdad, and three people died when a bomb exploded in an outdoor market in the northwestern part of the Iraqi capital, police said.

Three people died in shootings in Mosul, and an attack on a bus in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, left three others dead, police said.

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