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Germany

Memorial Service Held for Deutsche Welle Journalists

Following the murders of two Deutsche Welle journalists in Afghanistan over the weekend, colleagues commemorated Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe at its offices in Bonn and Berlin on Monday.

An investigation is underway into the journalists' deaths

Hundreds of fellow workers gathered to share a moment of silence to remember their fellow colleagues, who were shot dead in tents in Afghanistan on Saturday.

"Many colleagues knew Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe well and appreciated them as people," said Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann.

"No one can really believe that they are no longer with us," he said. He added that Deutsche Welle wanted to provide its workers with the opportunity to say goodbye to Fischer and Struwe.

During the 20-minute commemoration service, Deutsche Welle's director general, Erik Bettermann, described Fischer's and Struwe's unique qualities both as people and as professional journalists. He called them "friendly and dedicated."

Memorial books were laid out in the DW's foyer and an intranet version has been established for colleagues to pay their respects in writing.

No clear suspects

Fischer, 30, and Struwe, 38, who were in Afghanistan conducting private research for a documentary, were shot in the province of Baghlan early Saturday morning, according to a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, which handles police affairs.

The governor of Baghlan province, Said Ekramuddin Massumie, told the German news agency dpa on Sunday that five to six people had been identified as suspects and the authorities were "almost certain" that they were directly involved in the murders.

They were the first foreign journalists to be killed in the country since 2001.

"The sound of the shooting was heard by some of the villagers, who ran toward that area," provincial police chief Mohammad Azim Hashami said. "They found a tent and they found the two journalists dead."

Fischer and Struwe had camped in Baghlan, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) northwest of Kabul, en route to the central province of Bamiyan, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Bashary said.

"They were killed by unidentified people in their tent," he said, adding that authorities are currently investigating the situation.

Police were stumped for a motive, an interior ministry spokesman in the capital Kabul said.

"Recently there were no security incidents in those areas," Bashary said. "I don't know what happened this time ... we are working on that."

Investigation

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the journalists' deaths.

"This heinous crime must be solved and the perpetrators brought before justice," he said while expressing his condolences to the victims' families, friends and colleagues.

DW's Erik Betterman called on Afghan authorities Sunday to clarify the circumstances surrounding the murder of the two journalists in northern Afghanistan.

Bettermann also called on Radio Television Afghanistan and the ISAF to cast some light on what happened.

Earlier, Bettermann had also given his condolences to Fischer's and Struwe's families and praised their work in the Middle East.

Afghanistan's north calmer than the south

Baghlan is relatively calm and has seen little of the Taliban-linked violence that is plaguing southern and eastern Afghanistan although unrest has increased there this year.

Unknown gunmen killed a Canadian carpenter in Baghlan in July. Mike Frastacky, 56, had been working for four years to build a school in the area. The circumstances behind his murder are still unclear.

Three foreign and one Afghan journalists were killed in a brutal attack in Afghanistan in November 2001 as they were approaching Kabul to do a story on the fall of the extremist Taliban regime in a US-led invasion.


Karen Fischer freelanced for the past three years for Deutsche Welle's English and German radio programs and focused her work on conflicts in the Middle East as well as the reconstruction of Afghanistan. She traveled to the area a number of times for Deutsche Welle, filing reports on a number of issues including the Afghan elections.

Christian Struwe helped set up and train journalists for Radio Television Afghanistan's international news department, a public project supported by the Deutsche Welle. The project was successfully transferred to RTA in August.

DW.DE