Damascus: Hours after Syrian President Bashar al Assad announced his country being in a “state of war”, armed rebels rip through a pro-government Syrian TV station on Wednesday, blowing up newsrooms and killing seven employees, media said.
In the fiercest attack so far on any authoritarian organization, gunmen stormed the offices of Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya (The Syrian News Channel) situated south of Damascus. They ransacked the office buildings, demolishing newsrooms and studios, officials said.
A photographer who visited the compound said five portable buildings used for offices and studios had collapsed, with blood on the floor and wooden partitions still on fire. Some walls had bullet holes, he said.
An employee at the station said several other staffers were wounded in the attack, which happened just before 4 am local time. He said the gunmen kidnapped him along with several station guards. He was released but the guards were not.
The employee, who did not give his name for fear of repercussions, said the gunmen drove him about 200 meters (yards) away, and then he heard the explosion of the station being demolished. "I was terrified when they blindfolded me and took me away," the man said by telephone.
Al-Ikhbariya is privately-owned station, set up as separate, government-funded entity in late 2010 by Syria's information ministry, but has been on the target of rebels as it strongly supports President Assad's regime.
Earlier this month, two Ikhbariya employees were shot and seriously wounded by gunmen in the northwestern town of Haffa while covering clashes between government troops and insurgents.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi, who oversees the channel, called the attack "a massacre against the freedom of the press.
UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has called a meeting in Geneva on Saturday of the Syrian action group - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.
Earlier Late Tuesday, declaring war, Assad said, "We live in a real state of war from all angles. When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since protests began in March 2011.
With PTI Inputs
First Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 13:43