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The BBC's Mike Donkin reports from Freetown
"Armed men leapt from the roadside and sprayed automatic fire into the cars"
 real 28k

Journalists Maggie O'Kane and Martin Bell
discuss the dangers of working in a war zone
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Sierra Leone ambush survivor speaks
Miguel Gil Moreno
Moreno (right) with government soldiers 10 days ago
A Greek journalist who survived a fatal ambush by Sierra Leonean rebels on Wednesday has been speaking of his ordeal.



The message that (the journalists) uncovered in Sierra Leone is that the killing has not stopped

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Greek photographer, Yannis Behrakis, and South African cameraman Mark Chisholm, survived the attack which claimed the lives of four Sierra Leonean government soldiers and two foreign journalists.

The two journalists who were killed were an American, Kurt Schork who worked for Reuters and a Spaniard, Miguel Gil Moreno, a cameraman who worked for the Associated Press.


Miguel Gil Moreno
Miguel Gil Moreno had filmed the war in Kosovo
Mr Behrakis, who also works for Reuters News Agency said he saw armed men spring from bush beside the road and open fire with automatic weapons.

He got slightly injured in his leg.

Then his American colleague, Kurt Schork, was hit in the head.

Smeared with mud

Mr Behrakis climbed past a Sierra Leonean army soldier who had also been killed to get out of the car and run off.



We condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms

US State Department
He then smeared his clothes with mud and hid as the rebels fired shots all around him.

He later found the car in which Miguel Gil Moreno had been travelling burnt out and full of bullet holes.

The journalists were travelling in army trucks when they came under fire near the strategic Rogberi Junction, about 80 km (50 miles) north-east of the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.

Condemnation

The US State Department has condemned the attack and expressed sorrow at the killings.


Sierra Leonean soldiers
Government soldiers have clashed with rebels near Rogberi Junction
"We condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms," said Philip Reeker, acting spokesman of the State Department.

"I, and many of my diplomatic colleagues, knew Kurt Schork. We admired his tenacity, integrity, and dedication to independent journalism in the world's trouble spots."

The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "saddened" by news of the casualties.

"They were doing what other journalists are doing around the world - taking risks so that the rest of us can keep informed.

"The message that they uncovered in Sierra Leone is that the killing has not stopped," he said in a statement.

Mr Annan called for an end to the "senseless violence that is tearing Sierra Leone apart".

Distinguished journalists

Kurt Schork was 53, a veteran war correspondent with Reuters who had reported from the Middle East, the Balkans and East Timor.


Kurt Schork
Kurt Schork was hit through the head
Miguel Gil Moreno was a cameraman with Associated Press.

He won an award just last month for his coverage of the war in Kosovo. He'd stayed on throughout the Nato bombing campaign there.

It is believed they were ambushed by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Fighting continues

Pro-government forces in Sierra Leone have been fighting the RUF, which took hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers hostage early in May and then launched an advance towards Freetown.

Government forces have been slowly repelling the rebels from the capital since then.

There has been fierce fighting around Rogberi Junction for several days, but the area was reported to have been quiet for the last 48 hours.

It is near where six bodies all wearing UN uniforms were discovered on Monday.

The task of identifying those corpses is proving more difficult because of the lack of forensic experts within Sierra Leone.

The UN has confirmed that six of its peacekeepers, from Nigeria and Kenya, have been killed in other clashes this month with Foday Sankoh's RUF rebels.

The rebels are still holding more than 250 UN peacekeepers hostage.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Africa
'UN victims' buried too soon
20 May 00 | Africa
UN to boost Sierra Leone force
23 May 00 | Africa
Kenyan hero chooses captivity
24 May 00 | UK Politics
Sierra Leone pull-out 'on target'
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