Baghdad - A presidential guard shot dead a senior Iraqi
journalist during an argument in Baghdad on Saturday and then fled, briefly
sparking a stand-off in which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded he be
It was not immediately clear what sparked the altercation
outside a heavily guarded presidential complex in the upscale Jadriyah
neighbourhood, but it appeared that Mohammed Bidaiwi, the Baghdad bureau chief
of Radio Free Iraq, was on his way to work inside the compound when the
The officer allegedly responsible, a captain in the
Kurdish peshmerga forces, fled the scene after the incident.
He apparently took refuge in presidential guard offices
before eventually being handed over, but only after Maliki himself made a
surprise appearance to demand he be taken into custody.
"The peshmerga captain killed him after he stopped
him from getting into the compound," said a journalist at Radio Free Iraq,
who declined to be identified.
An interior ministry official, who also did not want to
be named, confirmed the account.
The killing sparked outrage among officials, with
Maliki's office and others alleging that the officer was being harboured by the
presidential guard, and demanding that he be handed over.
Shortly afterwards, the premier appeared at the compound
with a phalanx of guards and called for the officer to be arrested.
The Baghdad joint security command later announced that
he had been handed over.
Maliki's spokesperson earlier told AFP security forces
were "laying siege to the presidential offices" and that "if
this brigade refuses to hand over the criminal, we have orders to break in and
arrest him by force”.
Bidaiwi is survived by his widow and two children.
A journalist since 1993, he had been Baghdad bureau chief
for Radio Free Iraq since 2006 and was also an associate professor of
journalism at Baghdad's Mustansiriyah University.
The broadcaster was established in 1998 and is a branch
of US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, broadcasting in Arabic from
Prague and Baghdad.
The so-called "Talabani Compound" where the
shooting occurred lies just outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, which is
home to the prime minister's residence, parliament and the US and British
It is named after President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who
has been in Germany for more than a year receiving treatment for a stroke.
Deadly country for
The compound houses presidential residences, as well as
several private homes and offices, including those of Radio Free Iraq, and is
guarded by Kurdish peshmerga guards.
Iraq remains one of the world's deadliest countries for
journalists and is routinely criticised for its poor record on media rights.
It frequently scores towards the bottom of press-freedom
rankings, and tops the Committee to Protect Journalists' Impunity Index, which
tracks unsolved murders of journalists.
"Many Iraqi journalists are routinely exposed to
threats, murder attempts, attacks, difficulties obtaining permission, denial of
access, confiscation of equipment and so on," Paris-based Reporters
Without Borders said last year.
In just the last three months of 2013, five journalists
were killed in the northern city of Mosul alone.
And this year, an Iraqi cameraman and his driver were
wounded in Mosul in January, while one journalist was killed and another was
wounded by a bombing in restive Anbar province the same month.