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Iraqi broadcaster targeted

The Baltimore Sun

BAGHDAD -- One of Iraq's most popular broadcasters narrowly escaped assassination yesterday, the latest target in a string of attacks against journalists in the country.

Amal al-Mudarris, 58, a Baghdad radio veteran whose career began more than 25 years ago, suffered serious head injuries when she was shot multiple times outside her home yesterday morning. Doctors said later in the day that her condition had stabilized and that she was expected to recover.

Mudarris, whose broadcasts before and since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion helped calm millions of listeners, had publicly voiced fears that she might one day fall victim to violence.

"Every time I leave my home in Baghdad, I expect either to be killed or kidnapped," the award-winning journalist wrote in 2004 in the British newspaper The Observer. "But life has to go on. You have to deal with it."

Police said her attackers had waited in parked cars near her home in the Sunni neighborhood of Khadra. Mudarris, a Shiite from southern Iraq, is the host of a daily call-in show on a station that is part of the state-owned Iraqi Media Network.

This month, another well-known Iraqi journalist, Radio Free Iraq reporter Khamail Khalaf, was found shot to death two days after being kidnapped.

"They are targeting journalists who have nothing but their pens and free voices," said Kareem Yousif, director general of Dijla Radio in Baghdad. "Nobody is immune from murder in Iraq."

Iraqi Media Network, which was set up by U.S. advisers in 2003, has been a frequent target, with 13 employees killed over the past four years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Elsewhere in Iraq yesterday, U.S. and Iraqi forces swept through the insurgent stronghold of Samarra after the city was blanketed with leaflets threatening attacks on local police and soldiers.

"I was surprised to find a leaflet in front of my house with the message that I should quit my job," said one Samarra police officer. "It says this is the last warning."

The leaflet was signed by the Samarra branch of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida-affiliated group that has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks.

With an all-day citywide curfew in place, U.S. forces launched a series of overnight raids in Samarra, arresting 36 suspects with alleged ties to Sunni militants, U.S. military officials said.

Simultaneous raids in Sunni-dominated Anbar province resulted in an additional 35 arrests and the seizure of bomb-making materials, including 20 5-gallon drums of nitric acid, the military said.

In the southern city of Karbala, police revised the death toll up to 74 in a car bombing attack Saturday on a crowd of Shiite Muslim worshipers.

Edmund Sanders writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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