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Syria: Al-Ikhbariya TV station attacked as Assad says country is at war

Gunmen have attacked a Syrian TV station, Al-Ikhbariya, known for its pro-government coverage.

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Syrians listen to the televised speech of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at their house in Damascus on June 3, 2012. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Armed men stormed the studios of a pro-government TV station in Syria this morning, state media reports.

According to official news agency SANA, "terrorists" planted explosives in Al-Ikhbariya TV's headquarters near Damascus, ransacked the newsroom and shot dead seven employees.

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An Associated Press photographer reported seeing five of the station compound's portable buildings in ruin, "with blood on the floor and wooden partitions still on fire."

The satellite channel has nonetheless continued to broadcast, the AP said.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi called the attack an attempt to "silence the voice of Syria." 

"We hold the EU, Arab and international organizations responsible for this massacre," SANA quoted him as saying, in reference to the European Union's recent decision to impose sanctions on Syria's state TV and radio stations.

The EU accuses Syria's state-run media of spreading pro-government propaganda and inciting violence against civilians.

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While Al-Ikhbariya is privately owned, opponents of President Bashar al-Assad say it is a "government mouthpiece," according to Reuters. The station has a mission to counter what it claims is a campaign of misinformation by foreign media about the unrest in Syria.

The attack came hours after Assad appeared on state television to tell Syrians that "we live in a state of real war." 

"And when we live a state of war, all our polices, directives and all sectors will be directed in order to gain victory in this war," Assad said, as quoted by SANA.

United Nations investigators said today that violence in parts of Syria "bears the characteristics of a non-international armed conflict" – in other words, a civil war, according to Deutsche Welle

A meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva heard that forces loyal to Assad "may have been responsible for many of the deaths" near the village of Houla last month, according to the evidence collected by UN observers. That conclusion prompted Syria's representative, Faisal Khabbaz Hamoui, to walk out of the meeting, complaining of a "war of disinformation against Syria."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120627/syria-al-ikhbariya-tv-station-attacked-bashar-al-assad