( AP ) - An Iraqi television reporter was kidnapped on his way to work in central Baghdad, his station said Saturday, while the U.S. military reported that troops had killed six suspected militants in a raid.
Muntadhar al-Zaidi, a 28-year-old reporter for the Iraqi satellite channel al-Baghdadiyah, disappeared Friday, according to an editor at the channel. The editor spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.
A colleague phoned al-Zaidi around noon Friday, and a stranger answered his cell phone. "Forget Muntadhar," the stranger said, according to the editor.
"This is the act of gangs, because all of Muntadhar's reports are moderate and unbiased," the editor told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Iraqi journalists working for local or international media frequently come under threats from insurgents because of their reporting or affiliation with foreign organizations.
Al-Baghdadiyah TV broadcasts from Cairo, Egypt, and is often critical of the Iraqi government and the U.S. military presence here. It is perceived as pro-Sunni.
The station has already lost two reporters to the violence. The most recent was in September, when gunmen killed correspondent Jawad Saadoun al-Daami in western Baghdad.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 123 journalists and 42 media support workers - translators, drivers, fixers and guards - have been killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003. About 85 percent of those deaths were Iraqis, the group said.
In addition, the group says at least 51 journalists have been kidnapped in Iraq since 2004.
Neither CPJ count includes al-Zaidi.
Also Saturday, the U.S. military said that in an operation northeast of Samarra, U.S. soldiers killed two armed suspects in a house believed to be used as an al-Qaida in Iraq propaganda base.
Four other suspects were seen running into an adjacent building, the military's statement said. U.S. forces called for them to come out, but no one responded, so the Americans "engaged the armed men, killing four," it said.
Afterward, U.S. troops discovered that three of the suspects killed were wearing suicide vests at the time, the military said. A weapons cache and bomb-making materials were also found.
U.S. aircraft then destroyed the two buildings because they were rendered "structurally unsafe," the statement said.
The operation came a day after hundreds of American and Iraqi troops backed by helicopters descended on a remote desert area southwest of Baghdad to root out al-Qaida in Iraq and search for two U.S. soldiers missing after a deadly insurgent ambush six months ago.
The soldiers dug with shovels through heaps of sand and went house-to-house after a dramatic pre-dawn air assault into two Sunni villages near the boundary with Anbar province.
U.S. officers said there was no sign of the missing soldiers but stressed it was only the first day of the operation dubbed Marne Courageous, which also aimed to establish a long-term presence west of the Euphrates River in a former al-Qaida stronghold.
Spc. Alex R. Jimenez of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty of Waterford, Mich., were seized May 12 when insurgents attacked and overran a checkpoint in the volatile area south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death."
A third soldier, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., was also captured during the raid, but his body was found May 23 floating in the Euphrates River. Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator were killed during the ambush.
The Islamic State of Iraq, a front group for al-Qaida, claimed in an Internet video that the three missing soldiers were killed and buried. The militants showed images of the military IDs of Jimenez and Fouty but offered no proof that they were dead.
The two soldiers are assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., which has since returned to the United States.
In other violence Saturday, police reported that three civilians were wounded in a drive-by shooing in Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Six Iraqi soldiers were also wounded when a land mine exploded in Khanaqin, a Kurdish town near the Iranian border in Diyala province, the Iraqi Army said. The soldiers were transporting old rusted munitions that had been dumped in the area when the blast went off, an officer said.
Khanaqin is near a major front during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and 20-year-old land mines and other explosives still litter the area.
A policeman was also seriously wounded by gunmen in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles northeast of the Iraqi capital, police said.