By: Sean Yoong, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Gunmen ambushed and kidnapped three Malaysian journalists in Baghdad, killing their Iraqi interpreter and injuring two Malaysian relief workers, officials said Sunday. The journalists were later released unharmed.
The Malaysians were attacked while traveling in two vans early Saturday from the Sheraton Hotel in the Iraqi capital to a hospital, said Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The journalists were part of a 28-member group that left for Iraq last week. They were funded by the Malaysian government, which accused Western news organizations of biased reporting in Iraq and entrusted the Malaysian team with providing what they onsider more balanced coverage of the war.
Abdullah said an Iraqi man hired as an interpreter was killed. Two doctors who have been helping to treat Iraqis — Jemilah Mahmood, president of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society, and Baba Deani — were wounded, but were recovering in a hospital.
Three people were abducted — Terence Fernandez, a reporter for The Sun newspaper, Anuar Hashim, a New Straits Times photographer, and Omar Salleh, a cameraman with the state-run Radio Television Malaysia, Abdullah told reporters.
The journalists were later released unharmed and were sent to a Baghdad hospital, Zukri Valenteno Ali, a spokesman for the Malaysian media team in Iraq, was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama. No other details were immediately available.
Baghdad has been swept by waves of looting and lawlessness since U.S. forces moved in and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hold on the capital was shattered. The U.S. military and the Iraqis have agreed to joint patrols to restore order.
Abdullah said the remaining Malaysian journalists should leave Baghdad “if the situation is panicky.” He urged the United States to “take the initiative” to rein in the chaos in Baghdad as soon as possible.
Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian nation, has opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, saying it would harm innocent civilians, fuel international terrorism, and worsen the global economy.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad is currently on a two-month holiday.