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Search to resume for missing journalists

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The search will continue Tuesday morning for four journalists missing and feared dead after gunmen attacked their unguarded convoy Monday on the road between Jalalabad and Kabul.

No bodies have been found and the fate of the journalists remains unconfirmed, but Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, quoting witnesses on the ground, said the four had been killed.

The fate of an Afghan translator traveling with the journalists is also unknown.

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One of the missing journalists is Maria Grazia Cutuli, who works for Corriere della Sera, an Milan newspaper. Also missing are Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman, and Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer, which the Reuters news agency identified as two of its employees. The newspaper El Mundo of Madrid, Spain, confirmed that the fourth missing journalist is one of its employees, Julio Fuentes.

A search party sent to the area late Monday from Jalalabad turned around at dark without reaching the scene of the reported shooting. But the commander of the force, sent by the chief of law and order in Jalalabad, said people his men met on the road reported seeing bodies in the area.

Another search party was to be sent into the area Tuesday morning, officials said.

The four journalists were part of a convoy headed from Jalalabad to Kabul. Hazarit Ali, the chief of law and order in Jalalabad, the said the convoy was traveling without the customary armed guard.

A driver of one of the two vehicles in which the journalists were riding, Ashiq Quallan, said the convoy was nearing Babali Uba, about halfway between Jalalabad and Kabul, when armed men approached three cars that were ahead of the rest of the convoy. He did not know if the gunmen were Taliban or bandits, Quallan said.

One car sped away, but Quallan said the armed men stopped his car and another. A woman journalist and another man were in his car, along with a translator; two other journalists and a driver were in the second car,Quallan said.

The gunmen pulled the occupants from the cars and began to throw stones at them, Quallan said. He and the other driver begged for their lives and fled when he saw the gunmen shoot the woman and a man, he said. The drivers said they also heard gunfire from behind a large stone where the journalists were taken.

The drivers went back to the remaining vehicles in the convoy, which turned around and returned to Jalalabad.

Northern Alliance officials claim control over the area, known as the Black Mountains. However, Quallan said, the gunmen told him Taliban fighters remained in the area.

A few hours later, another Afghan driver told CNN that he was in another convoy in the area that was stopped by eight armed men. Gunmen fired at his vehicle as he and other drivers fled, he said, and bullet holes were visible in his car.


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