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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 17:38 GMT
Journalists killed in Afghan ambush
Torkham border crossing in Afghanistan
Border posts were closed after the journalists' deaths
Four journalists have been killed in Afghanistan by gunmen who ambushed the convoy in which they were travelling.

Drivers said the gunmen forced the journalists from their vehicles when they were 90 kilometres east of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and made them march up into the surrounding hills.

Map
Driver Mohammed Farrad said he heard three or four bursts from a Kalashnikov rifle. "They took the journalists, and when the journalists turned to look at them, the gunmen shot."

British news agency Reuters says two of the four were working for them - Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman, and Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer.

Reuters quotes Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, as saying that the other two were Julio Fuentes of Spain's El Mundo and reporter Maria Grazia Cutuli of Italy's Corriere della Sera.

Unzipped pockets

This brings to seven the number of journalists known to have been killed reporting on the war in Afghanistan.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed its concern and urged journalists not to travel without an armed escort from the local authorities.

Julio Fuentes of Spain's El Mundo
Julio Fuentes was one of those on his way to Kabul
A passenger on a bus travelling along the same route said the bodies had been laid out along the road. The victims had apparently been robbed, because their pockets were zipped open and empty.

The journalists were ambushed in an area which is now controlled by the Northern Alliance but some Taleban fighters, including Arab volunteers, are believed to be in the area. Bandits also operate in the region.

Saved

Greek journalists travelling behind the group that was attacked were saved by their driver.

"A group of young men came running towards us down the road, shouting that three journalists and their Afghan driver had been killed. 'Go back, go back!', they shouted," Nikos Vafiadis of the Greek Antenna television channel told AFP news agency.

However, the warning apparently came too late.


Our driver saved our lives by telling them we were Muslims

Nikos Vafiadis
Greek journalist
"We were dragged out of our car and I felt that we were going to be next in line for it, but our driver saved our lives by telling them we were Muslims."

The new anti-Taleban authorities in Jalalabad have sent 200 men to search the area.

The attack took place on a route which links Jalalabad to Kabul - much used by journalists trying to reach the Afghan capital.

On Sunday, a group of French reporters was stopped on the route by gunmen and forced to hand over money and other possessions.

Three journalists - two French and one German - were killed a week ago in northern Afghanistan when Taleban fighters ambushed an opposition convoy.

See also:

17 Nov 01 | South Asia
Close shave with the Taleban
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Three journalists killed in Afghanistan
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
The risks of war reporting
03 Nov 01 | South Asia
Taleban free French reporter
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