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Two killed in raid to free reporter

Article published on the 2009-09-09 Latest update 2009-09-09 15:50 TU

A British soldier in Kabul.(Photo: AFP)

A British soldier in Kabul.
(Photo: AFP)

A British commando and an Afghan translator were killed early Wednesday during a mission to rescue New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell. The British journalisty was kidnapped two days earlier after being sent to investigate the bombing of two oil tankers, which is said to have killed 70 civilians.

Farrell was dispatched to the northern province of Kunduz to investigate the bombing of the tankers, which were reportedly surrounded by civilians who had come to siphon off fuel. He wanted to interview villagers to find out whether the tankers, which had been hijacked from a Nato base, were being used by the Taliban.

"The New York Times reporter wanted to go to the place where the Nato tanker was taken by the Taliban," says Mohammed Sader Sahim, from Media Watch in Kabul.

Farrell was told by officials not to travel to the area but "he went to the site and he was captured by the Taliban," Sahim told RFI.

Comment: Mohammed Sader Sahim, Media Watch

09/09/2009 by Daniel Finnan

The New York Times kept quiet about the abduction, and asked other media outlets not to report it in order to not endanger the lives of their reporter and translator.

The British Army said that a group of commandos landed in a helicopter outside the house where they knew the two journalists were being held, and a firefight ensued, during which one soldier was killed.

Farrell reported that his translator, Sultan Munadi, rose to his feet when he heard the gunfire and yelled “Journalist! Journalist!” but was shot on the spot.

Shortly afterwards, British commandos entered the room and Farrell, who holds both British and Irish citizenship, yelled “British hostage!” and was taken back to the helicopter unharmed.

"Its not just western journalists - actually the main target is Afghan journalists, you can see the western journalist has been released, and the Afghan journalist has been killed," says Sahim.

And, he adds, "We are not very optimistic about the selection of Hamid Karzai as President again, because he has not done any good for freedom of expression."

"Afghan journalists pay a high price for working for the foreign news media," comments press freedom campaign Reporters Without Borders. "Munadi was the fourth to be killed since 2001, following Jawed Ahmad, Abdul Samad Rohani and Adjmal Nashqbandi. Others have been physically attacked or arrested in the course of their work, or forced to leave the country."

Munadi posted a personal entry on the New York Times “At War” blog a week ago.

This is the second time New York Times journalists have been kidnapped in 2009. "Nowadays the freedom of expression in Afghanistan is facing many challenges," said Sahim.

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