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Deaths of 3 Journalists Are Confirmed

November 13, 2001|From Times Wire Reports

KHOJA BAHAUDDIN, Afghanistan — Two French radio reporters and a German magazine journalist were killed when they came under Taliban fire while traveling with Northern Alliance forces, their employers and colleagues confirmed Monday.

The journalists were identified as Johanne Sutton, 34, of Radio France Internationale, Pierre Billaud, 31, of RTL Radio, and Volker Handloik, 40, a freelance reporter for Stern newsmagazine in Berlin. They had been riding on the roof of an armored personnel carrier when it came under fire Sunday.

The three were believed to be the first foreign journalists killed in Afghanistan since U.S. airstrikes began Oct. 7.

Colleagues said the journalists were among six reporters who had set out with Northern Alliance forces to try to verify claims that the opposition had captured the northeastern town of Taloqan.

"All three of us were on the back of the APC, and we were joking about dragging along our interpreter, who was a bit reluctant about it," said French radio reporter Veronique Rebeyrotte, who was with Sutton and Billaud. "We never thought we would be taking a risk."

Rebeyrotte and Paul McGeough of Australia's Sydney Morning Herald said Taliban forces waiting in ambush opened fire on the vehicle with semi-automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Sutton, Billaud and Handloik tumbled off the roof of the vehicle. Rebeyrotte said the three journalists were left behind and that their bodies were recovered by opposition troops.

Meanwhile, at the front line north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Marco di Lauro, an Italian photographer on assignment for Associated Press, was shot Monday by a Taliban sniper after he flung himself to the ground during a rocket and mortar attack. The bullet hit the plate in his flak jacket, and he was not injured.

And the offices of Associated Press and the British Broadcasting Corp. in Kabul were damaged after an explosion. Windows in both offices were shattered, but no injuries were reported.

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