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Afghanistan 9 October 2006

Authorities urged to lose no time in establishing who killed German journalists

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Afghan authorities to quickly identify those responsible for the murders of German freelance journalists Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe and to establish their motives. The Afghan authorities said they had identified six people they want to question.

Fischer, 30, and Struwe, 38, were shot dead in the tent in which they were sleeping at a roadside in Baghlan province, north of Kabul, in the early hours of 7 October. They had often worked for the German public broadcasting company Deutsche Welle. They had also worked for UNICEF.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, which took place on the day that a Journalists Memorial was inaugurated in Bayeux, in northern France, to pay homage to the dozens of journalists who are killed each year in the course of their work,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The deaths of Fischer and Struwe should serve as a reminder to foreign journalists to take great care when travelling around Afghanistan,” the organisation added.

Fischer and Struwe had been on their way to Bamiyan to do a report on its historic sites, including the remains of the large Buddha statues that were demolished by the Taliban in 2001. The gunmen armed with AK-47s who shot them in their tent also riddled their car with bullets. This, and the fact their assailants did take their equipment or passports suggests the motive was not robbery.

The Afghan interior ministry expressed regret that Fischer and Struwe were travelling without a guide.

Baghlan is a province that has so far seen few attacks by Taliban insurgents. Mullah Dadullah, one of the Taliban military chiefs, announced on 4 September that the movement led by Mullah Omar would kill any journalists who used information provided by the NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. “We have the Islamic right to kill these journalists,” he told the Associated Press.

The German government said it condemned the double murder with the “utmost firmness” and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Last July, an Afghan employee of the privately-owned TV station Aryana was killed when a suicide bomb was quickly followed up by second one in the same place near the southern city of Kandahar.

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