Authorities have charged an Afghan man with killing four foreign journalists in Afghanistan as the former Taliban regime collapsed at the end of 2001, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The man, identified as Reza Khan, faces charges including murder, rape and highway robbery over the incident, Gen. Abdul Fatah, a prosecutor attached to the Afghan intelligence service, told The Associated Press.
Fatah said Khan had confessed to his role in the incident and that it was ordered by “a Taliban guy.”
The journalists were traveling in a convoy from the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad to Kabul when a group of armed men dragged them from their cars and shot them dead on Nov. 19, 2001.
The victims were two employees of Reuters new agency — Australian television cameraman Harry Burton and Afghan photographer Azizullah Haidari — and Maria Grazia Cutuli of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and Julio Fuentes of the Spanish daily El Mundo.
Khan admits killing one, raping another
Fatah said Khan had confessed to being one of 11 people who stopped several vehicles along the road early that morning and to personally killing one of the foreign men and raping Cutuli. The reporters’ vehicles were then looted.
He said the defendant will appear in court soon for a closed-door trial, and that he could be hanged if found guilty. It was unclear if Reza will have access to a lawyer under Afghanistan’s rudimentary legal system.
“Reza said they got their orders from Maulawi Latif, a Taliban guy,” Fatah said. “He confessed all these details without a beating.”
Afghan officials announced in April last year that four people had been arrested in the killings and that two had confessed, but gave no details.
Man also accused of cutting off ears, noses, killing wife
Khan was picked up trying to cross into Pakistan earlier this year on evidence provided by another man, identified as Mahmoud, who the prosecutor said has already been sentenced to 16 years in jail.
Fatah said authorities were still searching for the alleged ringleader in the shootings, identified as Zar Jan, and another alleged accomplice called Mohammed Agha.
Khan is also accused of cutting off the noses and ears of Afghans in a bus stopped by the group. “because they had only short beards,” Fatah said.
The Taliban’s many religious prohibitions included a ban on men trimming their beards.
“He also confessed to killing his wife in Pakistan,” Fatah said.