MEXICO CITY -- A Dutch journalist who fled El Salvador after identifying the bodies of four slain Dutch newsmen said Sunday a key source told him one of the men was considered an 'enemy' by high Salvadoran officials.
Journalist Jan Schmeitz, 28, also said the bodies appeared to have been tampered with when he identified them at the San Salvador morgue Thursday.
In Amsterdam, another reporter, Hans van Gerven, who also identified the bodies, said Sunday the victims appeared to have been shot dead at close range.
'The official Salvadoran government version that my colleagues were killed in a firefight between soldiers and guerrillas is without any basis,' van Gerven said on his return from El Salvador on assignment for Ikon broadcasting.
'The evidence suggesting murder is far too strong.'
The Salvadoran army said the four journalists were shot to death from a distance of 75 to 150 yards during a guerrilla clash with government troops.
Dutch Foreign Minister Max van der Stoel also expressed 'strong reservations' about both the government's and the U.S. embassy's account of how the journalists were killed.
Schmeitz said the pants of Koos Koster and cameraman Joop Willemse, had been switched, and said three of the mens' underwear had been removed. He also said the four journalists' shoes and watches had been removed.
Schmeitz identified the bodies Thursday and left El Salvador two days later after receiving telephone threats warning him to leave the country.
Schmeitz said a 'key source' told him high armed forces officials blamed Koster for the Dutch-made movie 'El Salvador: Revolution or Death,' which pro-rebel groups use as a propaganda film in the United States and Europe.
Schmeitz would not identify the source but said the man was in close contact with high Salvadoran officials who investigated the slayings.
The source told him officials believed Koster was in El Salvador to make a sequel to the film, which denigrates the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government.
'They consider him an enemy. In El Salvador, enemies are killed,' Schmeitz said the source told him. Koster was questioned at an armed Forces garrison on March 11, less than a week before the slayings.
He said the source's testimony, corraborated by Dutch Ambassador to El Salvador Baron Speyart Van Woerden, indicated two army patrols waited for the journalists, two Salvadoran contacts and four guerrillas when they were unloaded on the road.
Koster, 46, Willemse, 40, reporter Jan Kuiper, 39 and soundman Hans Ter Laag were shot to death Wednesday in an isolated northern region of El Salvador.
The reporters were traveling with rebels as part of an assignment on life in guerrilla-controlled areas, their employer said.
Schmeitz, a Dutch TV and newspaper reporter in Central America for six years, said he was friends with the four journalists and had worked with them filming for Dutch television.