SIERRA LEONE: News Agencies Pull out after Two Journalists Die in Ambush ; Diplomats Admit They Underestimated the RUF Rebels as Cars Are Attacked in an Area the Government Had Claimed to Control
Sengupta, Kim, The Independent (London, England)
IT WAS about 12.50 on Wednesday afternoon when Kurt Schork, Miguel Gil Moreno, Mark Chisholm and Yannis Behrakis set out in two taxis for Rogberi Junction.
The area is one of dense jungle, part of a strategic `"horseshoe" that controls approaches to Freetown.
The four Western journalists knew the risks involved - there had been skirmishes in the area in the past week. But they decided the government forces were sufficiently in control. At Rogberi a Sierra Leone Army (SLA) officer asked them to give him and his men a lift towards Lunsar, again an area which had seen fighting but which the government claimed to have captured.
The journalists operating around Sierra Leone's shifting front line often have requests from the SLA and their allies for lifts.
A refusal can spark confrontation and the soldiers' presence helps to negotiate the way through checkpoints manned by volatile young militia recruits. Nevertheless, the reporters were sufficiently concerned about the safety of their Sierra Leonean drivers to leave them behind at Rogberi.
The two cars set off, Mr Schork, a Reuters war correspondent, driving the first one with the photographers Mark Chisholm and Yannis Behrakis, the SLA officer and two soldiers. The Associated Press cameraman Mr Gil Moreno drove the second car, an ageing Mercedes-Benz, with six SLA men packed in.
Mr Behrakis said: "We had heard the heavy guns the soldiers were using up ahead. We passed through the village of Matekete. It was deserted but for a couple of soldiers who said it was safe to go on. A little later I suddenly saw about 10 guys in T-shirts jump up from the bank on the left of the road.
"They started firing, automatic rifles. Kurt was hit on the head; by now the cars were burning and bullet-ridden. I managed to scramble out of the window of the car and jumped into some thick bush and just lay there. At one point the RUF were just 15 feet away but they did not see me".
Mr Behrakis continued to take pictures of the carnage. Mr Chisholm also managed to hide. Both were injured and bleeding. After the RUF left, the pair waited for three hours before fleeing on foot back to Rogberi Junction. They made their way with the SLA survivors back to Freetown, where they were treated. Mr Chisholm may need an operation on his hand. The bodies of Mr Schork, Mr Gil Moreno and the soldiers were retrieved by an army patrol.
The attack, 60 miles from the capital on a …
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Publication information: Article title: SIERRA LEONE: News Agencies Pull out after Two Journalists Die in Ambush ; Diplomats Admit They Underestimated the RUF Rebels as Cars Are Attacked in an Area the Government Had Claimed to Control. Contributors: Sengupta, Kim - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: May 26, 2000. Page number: 16. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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