Source AP ©

ABC News journalists are killed

Two Iraqi journalists working for ABC News in Baghdad were killed as they drove home from work.

The attack took place Thursday afternoon, when two cars filled with gunmen stopped the car carrying cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26, ABC said in a statement posted on its Web site. The gunmen, then forced the two journalists to get out of the car, the statement said.

They were unaccounted for overnight and their deaths were confirmed in the morning, it added.

"Today we've lost two family members. It really hurts," ABC News correspondent Terry McCarthy told "Good Morning America."

"They are really our eyes and ears in Iraq ," he said. "Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out. ... Without them we are blind, we cannot see what's going on."

Mike Tuggle, an ABC producer who worked with Aziz, affectionately recalled their work together - and a pool game he lost to Aziz.

"In Iraq you learn to trust the people you are with," Tuggle wrote in an e-mail message published by ABC. "I am truly sorry I will not see his smile the next time I go there, that I won't be able to depend on his instinct, and that I won't have a chance to avenge my loss on the pool table."

Journalists have been frequently targeted by violence in Iraq . The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded 104 journalists - including the two killed Thursday - and 39 media support workers killed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq , making it the most dangerous conflict for the media in the group's 25-year history.

The group said 78 percent of the slain journalists were Iraqi.

Another 48 journalists have been abducted in Iraq , the group said.

"This senseless attack underscores why Iraq remains the most dangerous assignment in the world," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement. "No journalist is safe in covering this story, especially local Iraqi reporters who have suffered the brunt of media casualties."

Reporters Without Borders said 176 journalists and media workers have been killed, including the ABC journalists, and 150 of them were Iraqi. The toll includes drivers, guards and other media assistants.

"We know the situation is difficult for everyone, but journalists are targeted because they give information to local media and foreign media," Hajar Smouni, Reporters Without Borders Middle East and North Africa representative, told AP. "This is not just a bombing. This armed group is waiting for the journalists. They know where they live, they know where they work and they wait for them and they kill them," she added.

"The fact that you work for an American media group makes you more vulnerable and more likely to be targeted," Smouni said. "They just want to eliminate the free and independent voices in Iraq ."

Reporters Without Borders said its toll for journalists and media workers killed may be higher than CPJ's because the group has been working with local Iraqi media recently and has added the names of journalists killed in 2003 and 2004 that may not have been accounted for previously. CPJ said a number of cases are still unconfirmed or under investigation.

Last week, three journalists were killed along with their driver in a drive-by shooting near the northern city of Kirkuk . Gunmen also stormed the offices of the independent Radio Dijla in a predominantly Sunni area in western Baghdad earlier this month, killing two employees and wounding five before destroying the building and knocking the station off the air.

ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq last year. A car bombing in May 2006 killed a CBS News camera crew - British cameramen Paul Douglas and British soundman James Brolan, as well as a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi translator. CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously wounded in the same attack.

ABC said Aziz is survived by his wife, his two daughters and his mother and Yousuf is survived by his fiancee, his mother, brothers and sisters.

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