Italy mourns murdered journalist
CATANIA, Sicily -- About 5,000 mourners packed Sicily's cathedral for the funeral of its war journalist shot dead in Afghanistan.
Maria Grazia Cutuli, who was working for Milan's daily Corriere della Sera covering the fall of the Taliban, was praised by mourners for having the "courage of a lion" in seeking out the truth.
Cutuli, along with three other journalists, were shot in the back after being taken from their vehicle as they travelled in a convoy between Jalalabad and Kabul last week.
Erminda Franci, one of the at the mourners, told The Associated Press: "She went as far as Afghanistan because she had the courage of a lion.
"We can't help but admire her strength and her spirit of sacrifice."
The 39-year-old war corespondent had filed copy on the discovery of a potentially dangerous chemicals factory just hours before her death.
Archbishop Luigi Bommarito in his homily on Saturday said of Cutuli, who was from Sicily, said: "You fell in a sacrificial trench. You wanted to see close up in order to write truthful things.
"Those wild beasts didn't have the courage to look you in the face, to look at your charming eyes."
Cutuli, is the first Italian victim in Afghanistan. The other journalists who were shot included Harry Burton, an Australian television cameraman, and Azizullah Haidari, an Afghan-born photographer, both of whom worked for Reuters news agency, as well as Spanish reporter Julio Fuentes who worked for the daily El Mundo.
Cutuli's brother, Mario Cutuli, told reporters on Friday that an autopsy had shown she had four gunshots in the back and that an earlobe had been slashed off with a blade.
News of the brutality of the killings had shocked those who attended the funeral service.
Carla Scandurra, a 17-year-old high student said she was "struck by the atrocious way Maria Grazia was killed, the butchery on her body," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted.
"I was thinking that no one, in today's cynical world, would be willing to make such a sacrifice."
Cutuli began her career in Sicily, writing for the newspaper La Sicilia.
She quickly moved to nationwide publications, covering conflicts in Africa and other places for the Italian weekly magazine Epoca.
She joined Corriere della Sera in 1997 on its foreign news desk and later was sent abroad to cover breaking news.
Cutuli often used her holidays to get to know places better for her work, including Rwanda, Israel and Sudan, colleagues recalled in tributes appearing in the paper earlier in the week.
Italy's foreign ministry has ordered its diplomats abroad to press for any evidence that could help determine who killed the four journalists.
The stretch of road where they perished is notorious for bandits, but warriors fighting for control of the country have also been mentioned as possible attackers.
Sad convoy carries slain journalists
November 23, 2001
Missing journalists found dead
November 20, 2001
Tributes mount for killed journalists
November 20, 2001
French journalist killed by Taliban ambush
November 11, 2001
Taliban attack kills journalists
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