SAMARRA, Iraq – 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 al-Wassan media company had been in the city 60 miles north of Baghdad 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, 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 outskirts 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. Wednesday, Al-Arabiya said.
The team was preparing to return to Kirkuk when two gunmen pulled up in a pickup truck, shooting in the air and shouting: "We want the correspondent," according to a cameraman who managed to evade capture, Al-Arabiya reported.
The three were taken away and their bodies were found about six miles northeast of Samarra, police and Al-Arabiya said.
Al-Arabiya identified the other two victims as a cameraman and engineer from the local Wassan media company. But the company could not immediately confirm the fate of its employees.
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 of 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 seriously wounded last year when gunmen shot him in a failed attempt to kidnap him.