updated 11/1/2004 4:59:27 PM ET 2004-11-01T21:59:27

Its name means “the Arab one,” but that didn’t spare Al-Arabiya television from attack by insurgents who perceive it as pro-Western.

The Saudi-owned satellite station lost five Iraqi employees when a car bomb exploded Saturday at its Baghdad bureau. It was one of several recent operations — militant groups have also kidnapped women and killed Muslims — that are drawing criticism as “un-Islamic.”

“Such operations are 100 percent wrong,” said Adel Zeyada, 27, a Palestinian engineer who’s been living in Iraq for 12 years. “Even since the days of the prophet, Islam has ... always advised against harming women, children and the innocent. Evidently these groups have a deformed perception of Islam.”

In most claims of responsibility for attacks, militants attempt to link Arab and Muslim targets to the U.S.-run coalition. However, many Iraqis and other Arabs believe the motive is to bring political pressure. Some think the militants have lost focus.

The attack on Al-Arabiya in particular raised questions. The pan-Arab network, which is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is one of the leading sources of news for people in the Arab world.

In a region where freedom of speech is not universally accepted, Al-Arabiya has broadcast statements by militants and has drawn criticism from U.S. officials for alleged anti-American bias.

A matter of focus
Soon after the Saturday car bombing, an Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, calling the network “the mouthpiece of American occupation in Iraq.” Islamist Web sites heralded the attack, some calling the channel “Al-Ibriya” — the Hebrew One — instead of Al-Arabiya.

Of the five dead and 14 injured employees, all but one were Muslims. One of the dead was an Iraqi Christian.

Saudi columnist Khaled al-Maeena said some of the actions of militant groups in Iraq “are alien to the very ideology they profess to possess.”

Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism expert in Washington, called recent attacks “a bizarre escalation of violence.”

“They are taking their anger out on anything they can find,” Kohlmann said of the insurgents. “I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s horrifying when it’s unleashed. It’s like they are so enraged that they’ve lost total focus on who’s the enemy.”

For women, no safe haven
Under Islam, women are supposed to have a protected status in war. So many moderate Muslims were shocked when British aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, who is married to an Iraqi, was kidnapped Oct. 19.

No group has claimed responsibility for her abduction. However, Hassan’s appearance on videotapes begging for British troops to leave Iraq suggested she was taken by insurgents.

“The whole Iraq issue is becoming strange. The situation has deteriorated so badly that it’s beyond rational explanation,” said Abdel Khaleq Abdulla, a political analyst in the Emirates.

“These groups have one thing in their mind: making life difficult for everybody — the Americans, Iraqis and others,” he added. “The goal is to make Iraq unbearable, to make it hell, to make it miserable so that it falls in their hands.”

Abdulla said it appeared the shadowy groups were aiming for “soft targets” like women and children, “because it’s shocking and they are after more exposure and publicity. The cost is minimal and the payoff is huge.”

Zeyada, the Palestinian engineer, questioned whether Muslims were even behind all the attacks and speculated that some were so un-Islamic that they must have been carried out by “people who deliberately want to harm the image of Islam.”

All lines are now blurred’
Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on Islamic militancy based in Cairo, blamed the U.S.-led occupation for feeding “inexplicable extremism.” Even though the Americans transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis in June, the presence of about 140,000 U.S. troops makes that move appear hollow.

“We should not be all too surprised,” Rashwan said. “Occupation is always equated with violence, which merits reaction in return. Occupation does not pat people on the back, so in turn, people are not kind to it.”

For Inas Abdel Razzaq, a 31-year-old Iraqi housewife, “all lines are now blurred.”

“When you enter the Islamist Web sites and you find those militants saying ‘In the name of God and Islam,’ what Islam are they talking about?” she asked.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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