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Iraqi TV exec slain; no word on other hostages

Gunmen killed the director of Iraq's public television channel and his driver Saturday, the second slaying this month of a figure who shapes broadcast news coverage of the country's sectarian strife.

Amjad Hameed, 45, a former cameraman and programming executive who had run Al-Iraqiya television since July, was shot several times in the face and chest after the assailants cut off his car as he headed to work in central Baghdad, the capital. He died instantly, police said.

Also Saturday, Iraqi police reported that American aid worker Tom Fox, a 54-year-old member of Christian Peacemaker Teams from Clear Brook, Va., was found dead near a railroad line in Baghdad with gunshots to his head and chest and signs of torture on his body.

Fox was the fifth American hostage killed in Iraq. There was no immediate word on his fellow captives -- Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74. The three were seen in a video dated Feb. 28 that was broadcast Tuesday on Al-Jazeera television. Fox did not appear in the brief, silent videotape.

The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping the four Christian Peacemaker Teams members, who disappeared Nov. 26.

Still missing is Jill Carroll, a freelance writer for the Christian Science Monitor, who was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad. She has appeared in three videotapes delivered by her kidnappers to Arab satellite television stations.

Al-Iraqiya, the Iraqi public television channel, suspended regular programming and aired verses from the Quran after reporting the news of Hameed's death.

Saturday's slayings came four days after the shooting death of Munsuf Abdallah Khalidi, a news anchor on Baghdad Television, which is run by the country's largest Sunni Arab party. That channel and Al-Iraqiya give highly partisan, opposing slants to the bloodshed that pits Sunnis against Shiites.

Last month, a famous war correspondent for the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel, Atwar Bahjat, was shot to death along with her cameraman and engineer while covering the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. The blast triggered a weeklong spike in nationwide violence that left hundreds dead.

The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, reacting to Saturday's killings, announced that it would ask the interior minister to grant licenses allowing journalists to carry firearms in self-defense. More than 70 foreign and Iraqi journalists have been listed as killed since U.S. forces toppled President Saddam Hussein three years ago. Al-Iraqiya says 38 of its employees, including nonjournalists, have died in the violence.

Authorities reported at least four other shooting deaths Saturday, including that of a human rights activist in Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, and a police lieutenant colonel in the capital. One U.S. soldier was wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, the American military said.

Meanwhile, Sunni and Shiite political leaders met for the first time since the mosque bombing to resume talks on forming a new government. The negotiations have moved slowly since Dec. 15 elections produced a divided Parliament, with Shiites falling short of a majority.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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