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Spanish Journalist Who Filmed Sinaloa Cartel Documentary Is Killed in Africa Along With Colleague

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David Beriain, 44, in the Season 1 cover of the documentary series Clandestino (Clandestine)

David Beriain and Roberto Fraile, two Spanish journalists who went missing in Burkina Faso (Western Africa) after their convoy was attacked on Monday, were confirmed dead today.

Beriain broke through to fame with the documentary series Clandestino (Clandestine), which included episodes portraying the Mediterranean mobster migration business, El Salvador’s Maras gang, Albanian and the Camorra mafia groups, and Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. The episodes were based on ground research and showed the inner workings of these criminal enterprises.

The incidents surrounding his death took place on Monday at around 9AM on a road that connects the cities of Fada N’gourma and Pama. The two reporters were in the area to shoot a documentary on the government’s fight against poachers (illegal hunters). The convoy they were traveling consisted of two pick-up trucks and around 20 motorcycles. Journalists, environmental agents, and military escorts were with them.

They were attacked about 60 km from Natiaboani. Beriain was ambushed while he got out of one the trucks and started operating a drone to take aerial photos. Local sources reported that two other people, an Irish national and a man from Burkina Faso, are currently missing. At least three more were wounded in the attack.

The Spanish Embassy in Mali has been in touch with the families of the two victims.

“This is a dangerous area, regularly used by terrorist groups and bandits,” said the minister González Laya. The head of the organization Reporters Without Borders also issued a message on Twitter.

In the past few years, Burkina Faso has been afflicted by violent jihadist movements, particularly in the Sahel region. The first attacks were recorded in 2015. Close to 5,000 people have been killed since then; half of them were recorded in 2020. Over a million people have been internally displaced due to the violence. Three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, in a country with just 20 million inhabitants.

Beriain interviewed several members of the Sinaloa Cartel


Born in Navarre, Spain, Beriáin died doing what he had loved, reporting from major conflict and crime zones around the world. He had just left his residence in Salamanca and was working on a documentary about the Burkino Faso government’s attempt to crackdown on poaching in its national parks and wildlands.

Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, reported Tuesday that no group had yet claimed responsibility for the attack. “This is a dangerous area because terrorists, poachers, robbers and jihadist groups habitually operate there,” she said.

But some sources say that the attack was linked to the jihadists groups in the area.

“David was a noble and stubborn man from Navarre who achieved incredible things, such as interviewing members of FARC, Talibans and the Sinaloa Cartel,” said Hernán Zin, who featured Beriáin in his award-winning documentary, “Morir para contar” (Dying to Tell), now on Netflix.

“In another country, he’d have half a dozen Pulitzer prizes, but here in Spain, it costs us a lot to recognize talent. In this case, talent accompanied by courage and an ethical commitment to stories,” Zin added.

Beriain in a scene from his documentary series, ‘Clandestino.’

Sources: El Pais; Noroeste; Linea Directa; Variety

Documentary episodes (Spanish, no subtitles): Ep. 1; Ep. 2; Ep. 3


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