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Iraqi TV office bombed after airing criticism of Kurdish figure


A bomb exploded on the roof of an Iraqi satellite channel's offices Saturday night, one day after the broadcaster aired a caller's criticism of a revered Kurdish leader, an official said on Sunday.

At least five people were killed in separate attacks in Iraq on Sunday, the state news reported.

The attack on the media building in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah came as Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the autonomous Iraqi region for infringing on free speech by wrongly detaining journalists, activists and opposition figures for insulting public figures.

On Friday evening, the Nalia television station briefly aired a caller's criticism of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, a Kurdish nationalist leader and the father of Kurdistan's current president, during its "Free Microphone" program before cutting off the caller.

On Saturday, 300 supporters of Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) tried to storm the broadcaster's offices but were turned away by riot police, an AFP journalist said.

Later that day, a bomb went off on the roof of Nalia's offices, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was unclear who was behind the attack.

Abdulwahab Ali, the KDP's chief in Sulaimaniyah, said the party had not orchestrated the demonstration.

Nalia's offices were previously attacked in February 2011 by masked gunmen who wounded a security guard and destroyed the broadcaster's equipment.

On Sunday, New York-based HRW issued a statement criticizing Kurdish authorities for arresting opponents and journalists under legislation that has not been approved by the region's parliament.

"Instead of ensuring the justice system investigates high-level corruption, the Kurdistan regional government is ignoring its own laws to protect free speech and assembly, and using 'laws' that are not in force to silence dissent," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, wrote.

"Sadly, the Kurdistan regional government today looks less and less like the open and thriving democracy it paints itself to be."

The watchdog said that in 2012, regional security forces reportedly arrested at least 50 journalists, opponents and activists, prosecuting seven of them for insulting public figures.

Meanwhile at least five people were killed and many more injured in three separate attacks across the restive country Sunday.

Iraq’s national news agency reported that one civilian was killed and several others injured when a car bomb exploded in central Samarra.

Two others were killed and four injured at the Baiji refinery in the Salahuddin province, north of Tikrit, when gunmen opened fire on them.

And attackers killed two policemen at a checkpoint in the Farouk district, west of Mosul.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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