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2 Americans Slain Filming Afghanistan Documentary

October 28, 1987|United Press International

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two Americans filming a documentary on the Afghanistan war died in an attack on their rebel escorts near the Afghan capital of Kabul, the U.S. Embassy and guerrilla spokesmen said Tuesday.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad confirmed that independent film maker Lee Shapiro, 37, of New York, and camera soundman Jim Lindelof, 30, of Los Angeles, were killed Oct. 11.

The embassy said their bodies are still in Afghanistan but gave no other details.

The pair went to Afghanistan at the end of May to film a documentary about the fighting between Muslim guerrillas and the Soviet-backed Afghan army. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and Soviet forces in the country are estimated to total more than 115,000.

Aerial Attack Reported

Spokesmen for the Hezb-i-Islami guerrilla group in Peshawar, Pakistan, which arranged the trip, said Shapiro and Lindelof were killed in an aerial attack by Soviet or Afghan forces in the Sanglakh Valley, which stretches from the Paghman region 12 miles northwest of Kabul.

Earlier Tuesday, rebel spokesmen said the Americans and two rebels escorting them were killed with small arms fire in an ambush.

The Americans' Afghan translator on the trek, Abdul Malik, said he was seriously wounded in the attack but made his way to a rebel base near Kabul and radioed the news to Pakistan.

The Paghman region has been the site of heavy fighting for the last two months, with rebels attempting to penetrate Afghan and Soviet defenses ringing Kabul. Rebel rockets launched from Paghman regularly hit the capital.

In the five months before they were killed, Shapiro and Lindelof traveled with Hezb-i-Islami fighters to the northern provinces of Kunduz and Takhar, which border the Soviet Union. Having moved south to film fighting around Kabul, they were planning to return to Pakistan at the end of this month.

Shapiro, who lived for several months with Miskito Indians in Nicaragua and released an hour-long film "Nicaragua Was Our Home" in 1986, reportedly told the rebels he was willing to take risks to get film of combat, adding that he hoped to make a two-hour documentary about the war.

Lindelof, a Los Angeles paramedic, first went to Afghanistan in 1985 as a medic, according to his brother, Bill, and returned to the war-torn country in May as a sound man for Shapiro.

Lee Eby, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Documentary Movie Project Co., told reporters in New York that film footage from the first leg of the pair's trip is in the United States, and the project will be completed despite Shapiro's death.

Funds From Moon Group

Also in New York, a spokesman for Causa International--an educational organization founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon--said the group funded about half of the $500,000 film project. Other funding came from John Olin Foundation and also the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee.

Shapiro was a member of the Unification Church, but Lindelof was not.

"Lee was in Afghanistan because he was concerned about what was happening to that country, concerned about the Soviet occupation and invasion, concerned about the Afghan people," Eby said.

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