MADRID – The bodies of two Spanish journalists and an Irish wildlife activist killed by jihadists in Burkina Faso this week while they were filming a documentary on poaching were flown home Friday as several European countries vowed to keep fighting extremism in Africa's Sahel region.
David Beriáin, 44, and Roberto Fraile, 47, journalists with long experience in conflict zones, had joined Irish conservationist Rory Young on an anti-poaching patrol led by a special military wildlife force in eastern Burkina Faso when their convoy was ambushed Monday by jihadists.
The three Europeans and one Burkinabe soldier were killed, according to Spanish authorities. The government of Burkina Faso said six other people were wounded in the attack and one is still missing.
The bodies of the Europeans were flown overnight from the capital of the African nation, Ouagadougou, on an Airbus provided by the Spanish military. A guard of honor carried their coffins out of the aircraft at a military airport near Madrid, where relatives of the Spanish journalists awaited with Spanish officials and the Irish ambassador to Spain.
“It's a sad day,” Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said following a brief ceremony on the tarmac. “David and Roberto went to lengths to give voice to those who don't have them, to make visible hard realities surrounding us and to strengthen democracy."
The minister announced the two journalists would be awarded Spain's Order of Civil Merit, which recognizes extraordinary contributions by individuals.
The two-person crew was making a documentary on how Burkina Faso’s authorities are tackling poaching, also focusing on the people living in the park. Young, the director of the Chengeta Wildlife Foundation, was leading the patrol in Arly National Park, the group said on Facebook.
Two soldiers wounded in the attack said they tried to protect the foreigners during fighting that lasted three hours, but were outnumbered by the jihadists. One foreign worker of the wildlife foundation did survive, the soldiers told The Associated Press, insisting on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.