CNN BREAKING NEWS
Journalists Believed to be Kidnapped in Panama
Aired January 21, 2003 - 17:06 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now we have some breaking news. Three American journalists are missing and believed kidnapped in Panama. They include Robert Pelton, an American Canadian journalist who's done freelance work, as many of probably remember, for CNN. Guy Olson is a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Panama. He's joining us now by telephone. Mr. Olson thanks for joining us. Tell our viewers what's going on.
GUY OLSON, U.S. EMBASSY SPOKESMAN (via telephone): Well, Wolf, on Sunday, this past Sunday, January 19, the Panamanian National Police notified an embassy official that two American citizens and a Canadian citizen and that Canadian citizen we now have learned is Robert Pelton, who also holds U.S. citizenship, were missing in an area of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) near the border with Colombia and that their reports were fragmentary and sketchy but they said the three have last been seen in the company of a Panamanian guide on the afternoon of January 17th near the town of Paya (ph), which is very close to the Colombian border.
The police said that the group had been, according to a witness who had escaped, that the group had been ambushed by Colombian guerrillas and had fled into the jungle, and that was really all that the Panamanian police have been able to confirm with us up to this time.
BLITZER: Do you have the names of the other two people who are also reported missing?
OLSON: Yes, they are two young 22-year-olds. One name is Meagan Smaker if I'm pronouncing her name correctly. It's S-M-A-K-E-R and the other name is Mark Wedeven.
BLITZER: A lot of our viewers of course remember that Robert Pelton interviewed John Walker Lindh right at the end of the Afghan war. It caused international headlines, a lot of sensation with that interview. He is known for his daring journalism and his exploits around the world. What do you know, if anything, about these people who apparently may have kidnapped or taken these three people?
OLSON: Well, again, the witness that the Panamanian police have spoken to said that it appeared to be members of the paramilitary forces from Colombia. They were wearing armbands with their initials AUC, so that's who they believe ambushed them and may have taken them hostage but we don't have, at least on this side of the border, don't have confirmation of that. BLITZER: And as of this moment no one has asked for money, ransom or any other demands as far as you know, is that right Mr. Olson?
OLSON: Not to my knowledge.
BLITZER: All right, Guy Olson he's a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Panama, good luck to you. Good luck to Mr. Pelton and his two colleagues. We'll continue to cover this story and get more information, of course, as it becomes available. But Robert Pelton, two other Americans, missing in Panama perhaps taken by Colombian terrorists. We'll find out more about this as we get some more information.
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