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Associated Press
A man cleans up the offices of the Iraqi newspaper, the Constitution, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Iraqi officials say on Monday, April 1, 2013 gunmen, some wearing military uniforms, broke into the offices of four independent newspapers in Baghdad and stabbed and beat five employees there also damaged computers and office furniture.

BAGHDAD — Gunmen suspected of being Shiite militiamen burst into the offices of four independent newspapers in Baghdad, smashing their equipment, stabbing and beating employees, and even hurling one reporter from a roof in the most brazen attack against journalists in Iraq this year, said staff and officials on Tuesday.

Two editors said they believed their assailants were members of a Shiite militia, saying the raids came after their newspapers published stories criticizing their hardline cleric-leader. It underscored the dangers facing the media in Iraq, one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters.

"The message of the assailants was to shut mouths," said Bassam al-Sheikh, editor of one of the attacked newspapers, Al-Dustour. "This is a dangerous precedent."

Some 50 assailants participated in Monday's attacks, according to a notice left on one of the newspaper's websites and according to al-Sheikh and Ali al-Daraji, the editor of another of the newspapers, Al-Mustaqila.

It appeared to have been sparked when the Baghdad-based dailies published stories saying that a Shiite group lead by cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi was trying to dominate the holy city of Karbala.