sponsored by

Rescue mission under way for Mexican journalists

Send a link to a friend

[April 30, 2010]  OAXACA, Mexico (AP) -- Police and rescuers failed to find two journalists stranded for a third day among feuding militants in a remote village after their caravan of Mexican and European rights activists was caught in a deadly ambush.

Authorities struggled to locate the missing journalists Thursday near the remote Triqui Indian town of San Juan Copala, where a violent dispute between rival political factions has reportedly cut off basic supplies and services to residents.

The convoy members killed were Finnish human rights activist Jyri Jaakkola, who reportedly came to document deteriorating conditions in the village, and Mexican political activist Beatriz Carino Trujillo.

But the caravan also included members of a radical leftist movement that seized control of the Oaxacan capital for five months in 2006 in a failed attempt to dislodge the governor of Oaxaca. There were fears a long-standing conflict between the group and the state government could be reignited.

On Thursday, Oaxaca state Interior Secretary Evencio Martinez suggested the caravan participants -- who included some of the state government's bitter foes -- might bear part of the responsibility for Tuesday's bloodshed.

"Whoever organized this caravan will have to answer for it, whoever invited these people and the way in which they were invited without taking precautions, because I think these people did not know what the situation and problems in the area were," Martinez told the Milenio television station.

"They (the caravan members) will have to answer, too, for having accepted the invitation."

The last two activists to emerge from the area brought word that photographer David Cilia was wounded in the foot by gunfire. Reporter Erika Ramirez was unhurt, but without water or food, and the two planned to approach local militia members whom they feared for help if there were not rescued soon, the other survivors said.

The staff of their Mexico City-based Contralinea magazine were on edge late Thursday after Cilia's father and the director of the magazine, Miguel Badio, boarded a state police helicopter in the afternoon to participate in the rescue -- but still had not returned long after sunset. State police have only entered the area for shot periods of time, concerned that rescuers might be attacked, too.

"They were dropped off and the helicopter returned without them," said Nancy Flores, a spokeswoman for Contralinea. "They're inside the area, and we have no word from them."

She also expressed concern for the health of the missing journalists. "Celia has lost blood. The two of them are very dehydrated, they haven't eaten anything," she said.

Most of those who escaped the ambush Tuesday afternoon hid in the bush and gradually made their way on foot beyond the disputed area.

[to top of second column]

Nursing Homes

Participants say five Europeans participated in the convoy of 27 people. Cars were draped with banners declaring that press and international observers were on board. Two of the foreigners were from Finland, but the nationality of the other three was not clear.

Europeans in the caravan included Meri Marjaana Mononen of Finland, who told The Associated Press on Thursday that she was invited by a civic group on a humanitarian mission to document the suffering of people reportedly living without schools, electricity and food.

Instead, she found herself watching a friend die in a war zone.

"This was a scene from a war with so many bullets without end," said Mononen, a resident of Helsinki who said she was in Oaxaca as a representative of the Finnish Union for Peace.

The body of Jaakkola, 33, was recovered from a bullet-riddled SUV on Wednesday. He appeared to have been shot in the head.

Mononen said she was seated behind Jaakkola when the caravan found the highway blocked with large rocks. Shots rang out and bullets perforated the windshield.

She wondered why Jaakkola didn't bend down for cover.

"I'm saying to him, 'Get down, get down,'" Mononen, recalling the events two days later. "He isn't moving much and I can see that he's bleeding like this. It's a horror movie."

Jaakkola was a member of a small, Finnish civil rights group, Uusi Tuuli (New Wind), based in the southwestern city of Turku. He traveled to Mexico about two months ago on his own initiative, financing the trip mainly with his savings, and planned to stay a year advocating for human rights, group spokesman Jani Nevala said.

Mononen said she and her European colleagues told a militant group that supports the state government warned against traveling to San Juan Copala, saying their "safety was not guaranteed." But they didn't imagine they could be targeted.

"It's not like we thought that's the same thing as, 'Here you come, we're going to kill you without warning."

[Associated Press; By MORGAN LEE]

Associated Press writers Ixtli Martinez in Oaxaca city, Mark Stevenson in Mexico City and Matti Huuhtanen in Helinski contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor