Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nov. 20, 1978, The Frederick Post – AP, Americans escorted from Guyana camp,

November 20, 1978, The Frederick Post – AP, Americans escorted from Guyana camp

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) —The Guyanese government airlifted troops Sunday into the remote jungle where a California congressman and three newsmen were ambushed and killed as they tried to escort unhappy settlers from the camp of an American religious sect.

One of the settlers also was killed, government officials said. Nine other persons were reported wounded. All the dead and wounded were Americans, according to the U.S. Embassy. Authorities in this South American nation said at least one suspect had been apprehended.

There were reports that 200 or more of the sect's members had committed mass suicide at the Jonestown settlement in the aftermath of the Saturday ambush of Rep. Leo J. Ryan's group. The government said it could not confirm that such a bizarre bloodbath had taken place.

Guyanese officials said the attack on Ryan's group apparently was staged by members of the People's Temple sect who were angered by the congressman's interference.

A Guyanese government spokesman in New York, Jack Gelinas, said a company of soldiers sent to the sect's camp took one suspect into, custody. Gelinas identified him as Larry John Layton, an American whose age and hometown were not known. The Georgetown Chronicle said eight men and a woman were arrested but it gave no details.

Government sources said 130 soldiers and about 40 police were -sent to the area, 150 miles northwest of Georgetown and about 50 miles south of the border with Venezuela .

At least seven persons, including American attorney Mark Lane, had been listed as missing after the attack. But State. Department spokesman Tom Reston said in Washington that he had information that Lane and another lawyer, Charles Garry, were alive in Jonestown. He gave no source for his information.

Lane, who defended Martin Luther King's convicted assassin, James Earl Ray, and Garry were serving as
counselors to Jim Jones, the founder of the California-based People's Temple sect that established Jonestown.

The State Department identified four of the dead as the 53-year-old Ryan, reporter Don Harris, 42, and
cameraman Robert Brown, 36, both of NBC News and both Los Angeles residents, and photographer Gregory Robinson, 27, of the San Francisco Examiner.

The identity of the fifth victim was withheld pending notification of relatives, but Guyanese sources said it was an 18-year-old American woman from the settlement.

Examiner Publisher Reg Murphy Sunday praised the slain photographer as someone "who represented the very best in American photojournalism.” The U.S. Embassy identified the seriously injured as Jackie Speier, Ryan's administrative. assistant; Steve Sung, 34, of Pasadena, Calif., who is a sound man for NBC, and Anthony Katsoria, Carolyn Boyd and Beverly Oliver.

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Americans escorted
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The embassy identified the last three as concerned sect members' relatives who accompanied the Ryan party. Ryan's party was ambushed as he tried to escort a half dozen or more People's Temple settlers from the sect's agricultural project back to Georgetown, Guyana's capital. Most sect members are Californians, and there have been repeated allegations that the sect was abusing some of its adherents.

The ambush occurred at a remote airstrip at Port Kaituma, eight miles south of the settlement, and the bodies of the dead remained there. The State Department said the bodies would be flown to Georgetown, where. autopsies would be performed, to . comply with Guyanese law in cases involving homicide.

The State Department said it had unconfirmed "alarming indications" that at least 200 of the outpost's estimated 1,100 American settlers committed suicide after the Saturday evening ambush. Reston said one settler from the compound walked 30 miles to Matthews Ridge, where the troops had stopped because of darkness, and reportedly said at least 200. had killed themselves before he left.

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