DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BNO NEWS) — Gunmen stormed a commercial pro-government television station near the Syrian capital of Damascus on early Wednesday, killing seven people and destroying several buildings, government officials said on Wednesday. The account could not be independently verified.
The attack occurred on Wednesday morning when a group of armed men stormed the offices of al-Ikhbariya television, which are located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the capital Damascus. The attackers fired RPG shells, planted explosive devices and executed people.
“The terrorists assassinated a number of journalists, media men and technicians of the channel and its security guards,” Syria’s information ministry said in a statement. “‘They also planted many explosive charges in the news studio, the administration offices and the technical equipment rooms which completely destroyed them, then set fire to the remaining offices and tied a number of the workers and shot them dead, and abducted others”
Government officials said seven people were killed, including three journalists and four security guards. The journalists were identified as Sami Abu Amin, Zaid Kahl and Mohammad Shamma, but the names of the four security guards were not immediately released. No details were given about workers who were apparently abducted.
“The repeated attempts to silence and prevent the Syrian media from delivering the full truth honestly and directly to the Syrian, Arab and world public opinion will end in failure based on the creativity of this free media supported by the decent Syrian people,” the ministry added, calling the attack an “evil act of aggression” against press freedom.
Photos distributed by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) showed several buildings which were completely destroyed by the blasts and resulting fires, but details about the attack could not be independently verified due to reporting restrictions imposed on foreign journalists.
The Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders, which advocates for freedom of the press, strongly condemned the attack. “United Nations observers must visit the scene where we hope they will be able to ascertain the circumstances of the attack and the identities of the three people killed,” it said in a statement.
The organization said neither parties involved in the Syrian conflict should target news organizations, but it also criticized the television channel involved. “We deplore in the strongest possible terms the broadcast by the media of messages inciting hatred and violence against civilians,” it said. “Media organizations must not act as mouthpieces for propaganda of any kind.”
The al-Ikhbaryia channel, which continued broadcasting following the attack, is pro-government and has been supportive of Bashar Assad’s regime.