Authorities rescue Mexican journalists stranded after ambush on international convoy

OAXACA, Mexico (AP) — Mexican authorities rescued two journalists on Friday who were stranded for nearly three days among feuding militants after a caravan of rights activists was caught in a deadly ambush.

Photographer David Cilia, who was shot in the attack, and reporter Erika Ramirez were escorted by police out of a remote Triqui Indian community, the scene of a violent dispute between rival political factions.

The journalists were in stable condition and were being treated for injuries and dehydration in the town of Juxtlahuaca.

"Our friends are safe," said Contralinea spokesman Zosimo Camacho. "David has three bullet wounds, but they aren't life threatening."

Contralinea Director Miguel Badillo and Cilia's father boarded a police helicopter Thursday to participate in the rescue that extended into the night near the remote town of San Juan Copala in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Two activists were killed in the Tuesday attack: Finnish human rights worker Jyri Jaakkola was shot in the head as the caravan came to a halt at a roadblock and gunmen opened fire. Mexican political activist Beatriz Carino Trujillo also was killed.

Jaakkola was a member of a small, Finnish civil rights group, Uusi Tuuli (New Wind), based in the southwestern city of Turku.

In Helsinki on Friday, Foreign Ministry officials said that Jaakkola's visit to Mexico was partly connected to a development project involving the Uusi Tuuli group, which had also received ministry funding, to help improve Indians' food production and self-sufficiency. The Finnish government said Friday that it has demanded that Mexico conduct a thorough investigation of Jaakkola's death and that those responsible be brought to justice.

The caravan also included members of a Mexican 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.

State authorities have questioned whether the foreigners were adequately informed about the risks and nature of the outing, and there were fears a long-standing conflict between the street activists and the government could be reignited.

"Whoever organized this caravan will have to answer for it, whoever invited these people ... without taking precautions, because I think these people did not know what the situation and problems in the area were," Oaxaca state Interior Secretary Evencio Martinez said. "They (the caravan members) will have to answer, too, for having accepted the invitation."

Participants say five Europeans took part in the convoy of 27 people. Cars were draped with banners declaring that press and international observers were on board. Aside from Jaakkola and one other Finn, the nationalities of the other Europeans were unclear.

Survivors of the attack hid in the bush and gradually made their way on foot beyond the disputed area. Some were detained and robbed by gunmen as they found their way back to the highway and hitched rides toward the state capital.

State police could only enter the area for short periods of time, concerned that rescuers might be attacked, too. But a police helicopter was called in when the two activists emerged from the area with word that Cilia and Ramirez were alive and increasingly desperate for help.

The Mexico City-based journalists, in their early 30s, accompanied the caravan, hoping to get a rare glimpse of life in San Juan Copala.

The community, which is controlled by a faction seeking greater autonomy from the state government and its ruling party, reportedly has been cut off from the outside world and has suffered from shortages of food and electricity.


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