Journalists `Shot Dead at Close Range' in Ambush
Parry, Richard Lloyd, The Independent (London, England)
FOUR FOREIGN journalists were feared dead in eastern Afghanistan last night after being ambushed and shot by masked gunmen while travelling between the city of Jalalabad and the capital, Kabul.
A militia force from the newly formed government of Jalalabad will set out this morning to seek the gunmen. Last night the unidentified attackers were reported to be still at large in the area, about 40 miles from Kabul. According to local people, the bodies of three men and one woman were still lying on the roadside yesterday evening.
The missing journalists are Harry Barton, an Australian reporter, and Aziz Haidari, an Afghan photographer, both working for Reuters; Julio Fuentes of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo; and Maria Grazia Cutuli, an Italian reporter for the daily Corriere della Sera. There were unconfirmed reports that an Afghan translator accompanying the party was also killed.
Renato Ruggiero, the Italian Foreign Minister, said the government had evidence that the four bodies were those of the journalists, although Reuters could not confirm their deaths. Ferrucio de Bortoli, editor of Corriere della Sera, said: "We're still hanging on to the last hope, even though with the passing of the hours, it becomes ever more feeble."
The driver of one of the cars, who escaped and returned to Jalalabad, said he had seen two of them shot at close range and heard further shots as he sped away.
The tragedy illustrates the anarchic state of eastern Afghanistan six days after the retreat of the Taliban. Several cars arrived in Jalalabad yesterday with bullet holes from the same area, close to the border between Northern Alliance-controlled Kabul and the territory of the Jalalabad mujahedin government.
Like hundreds of other journalists in the past few days, the victims drove in a loose convoy of some eight cars along the mountainous road between Jalalabad and Kabul. …