Four journalists believed killed

November 19, 2001—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged by the apparent murder of four journalists who were seized yesterday while traveling between Jalalabad and Kabul.

The journalists have been identified by their news organizations as Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer for the Reuters news agency; Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman for Reuters; Julio Fuentes, a Spanish correspondent for the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo; and Maria Grazia Cutuli, an Italian journalist for the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“War is no justification for murder,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “If these four journalists were in fact executed, then the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

The journalists were traveling through eastern Nangarhar Province at the head of a convoy of six to eight vehicles when they were stopped by a group of armed men, according to news reports. Gunmen dragged the four journalists out of the front two cars, marched them into the surrounding hills, and executed them using Kalashnikov rifles, according to a driver and translator who were allowed to flee and later spoke to the BBC.

While attending a European Union meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Italian foreign minister Renato Ruggiero told reporters that the four were believed to be dead: “Through contacts with the crisis unit there, we have evidence that the four bodies found correspond to the four journalists.”

Although an anti-Taliban coalition in Jalalabad chose a new governor for Nangarhar over the weekend, local authorities have yet to secure full control over the province.

Three other journalists were killed last week while reporting in northern Afghanistan. Johanne Sutton, a reporter for Radio France Internationale; Pierre Billaud, a reporter for Radio Television Luxembourg; and Volker Handloik, a free-lance reporter on assignment for the German news magazine Stern, were shot dead on the evening of November 11 when Taliban forces fired on their Northern Alliance military convoy.