Gunmen storm Pro-Assad Syrian TV channel

A handout photo by SANA of President Bashar al-Assad.

BEIRUT - Gunmen broke through the gates of a pro-government Syrian TV channel headquarters on Wednesday, bombing buildings and shooting dead three employees, state media said, in one of the boldest attacks yet on a symbol of the authoritarian state.

President Bashar al-Assad declared late on Tuesday that his country was at war and the attack on Ikhbariya's offices - located 20 km (15 miles) south of the capital - as well as overnight fighting on the outskirts of Damascus show that 16 months of violence is now rapidly encroaching on the capital.

Footage aired on Ikhbariya, which resumed broadcasting shortly after the attack, showed bullet holes pockmarked a two-storey concrete building and pools of blood on the floor. One building made of corrugated iron had been almost completely destroyed and flames licked at the metal frame.

"I heard a small explosion then a huge explosion and gunmen ran in. They ransacked the offices and entirely destroyed the newsroom," an employee who works at the offices in the town of Drousha told state media at the scene.

The Syrian press is tightly regulated by the Ministry of Information. Although Ikhbariya is privately owned, opponents of Assad say it is a government mouthpiece.

During the pro-democracy revolt against the Assad family's four-decade rule, Ikhbariya has been pushing to counter what it says is a campaign of misinformation by Western and Arab satellite channels on the uprising, which it describes as a foreign-backed terrorist conspiracy.

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