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Armed men attack television station, torch it

A least a dozen unidentified men armed with automatic weapons set fire to a private television station in Colombo early on Friday.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2010 20:25 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A least a dozen unidentified men armed with automatic weapons set fire to a private television station in Colombo early on Friday.

The pre-dawn attack on Siyatha television studios left two employees injured and equipment worth lakhs damaged.

Reports said the attackers forced their way into the studios, systematically destroyed equipment including at least 40 computers, air conditioning machines and other electronic equipment used for editing visual footage. On their way out, they exploded petrol bombs triggering a fire, which further damaged the building.

Fire brigade units had to be called in to douse the fire.

The television channel was unable to broadcast on Friday as the main control room was also damaged. The company’s radio stations too were interrupted.

"The station is off the air because our equipment has been destroyed," a journalist told AFP. "About a dozen men had come into the building after breaking open the gates."

According to another employee, the gang forced security guards to kneel down and then assaulted two of them. Both had to be hospitalised.

A police spokesman said an investigation was underway.

Friday's attack was the first targeting a private television station since an identical torching of another private TV network near the capital in January last year. No one has been brought to justice in connection with that attack.

The television station would attempt to go on air using its test transmission till it resumes normal broadcasts sometime next week, Roshantha Kariyapperuma Chairman of Voice of Asia, the broadcasting company of Siyatha TV told Daily Mirror online.

Siyatha owners were earlier seen as supporters of the ruling party, but government sources accused them of backing the opposition candidate during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's re-election bid in January.