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Bill Delaney: Journalists among casualties

CNN's Bill Delaney
CNN's Bill Delaney  

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The bodies of four journalists killed in an apparent roadside ambush in Afghanistan were recovered Tuesday.

CNN's Bill Delaney is in Jalalabad, where the bodies were taken. He filed the following report:

DELANEY: Four journalists died Monday morning, shot repeatedly on the road between the eastern provincial capital of Jalalabad and Kabul. This is usually about a five-hour drive -- they were killed about halfway, about 2 1/2 hours out from Jalalabad.

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Their bodies were retrieved Tuesday and brought back to Jalalabad's main hospital Tuesday afternoon Afghan time. They were retrieved by one of the many local commanders here, who went out to the site of the killing with armed men and brought the bodies back and handed them over to Red Cross officials.

The bodies will be kept here overnight and driven down the road about two hours to the border crossing that leads into the Khyber Pass and into Pakistan.

The four journalists are Maria Grazia Cutuli, who worked for Corriere della Sera, a Milan, Italy, newspaper; Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman for Reuters; Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer for Reuters; and Julio Fuentes of the Spanish daily El Mundo.

They were in two lead vehicles in a convoy of journalists traveling without an armed escort. The reports from the road for days have been that the road was safe.

The two lead vehicles got well ahead of the convoy -- as much as 15 minutes, some people say -- when they were stopped by armed men and pulled out of the car. Two Afghan drivers and an Afghan translator escaped either by pleading for their lives or simply reversing out of the scene. It's not clear. What is clear -- they say they were able to warn 13 to 18 other vehicles full of journalists to turn back.

Here in eastern Afghanistan and in Jalalabad, there is no fully functioning government since the Taliban left without a fight last week. Instead, although a governor has been installed, there are thousands of armed fighters loyal to one of at least four main factions that are competing for power. So far, there's no fighting in Jalalabad, but there's an atmosphere that many predict could turn as suddenly as events turn on the highway between Jalalabad and Kabul.

Who killed the journalists? One driver said the armed men who commandeered them identified themselves as Taliban. But this is also an area well-known as a haven for bandits.

Seven journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the U.S.-led bombing in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.


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November 20, 2001

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