Thursday, 10 September 2009

Afghan reporters appalled at death of colleague

Dreadful news that Sultan Mohammad Munadi, 34, a journalist and translator working with New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell, was killed during a military operation to rescue the two men from Afghan kidnappers. A British paratrooper involved in the operation also lost his life, as did at least three other people, one of whom was a woman. Farrell, 46, fortunately survived.
Farrell and Munadi had gone to Kunduz to report on the story of the hijacked petrol tankers that had been hit in a controversial NATO bombing raid, killing dozens of people. (You can read the Taliban account of this raid here.) Despite warnings from local police that it was dangerous to visit the area, the two men did so and were kidnapped.
The alarm was raised by their driver and news of the kidnappings was suppressed at the request of the NYT. The rescue operation came after the two men had spent four days as hostages.
Farrell's account of what happened during his capture and the subsequent military operation has already appeared - although more information is likely to come out at the UK inquest into the soldier's death.
The BBC reports that Mohammad Nabi from Char Dara district in Kunduz claimed that it was his home that was raided and that it was his brother's wife who was killed. He said that the Taliban had turned up there on Tuesday night with the two captives and demanded shelter. Nabi added that his sister-in-law was killed when soldiers blew the door off the house.
Farrell told his own newspaper that he saw Munadi step forward, shouting "Journalist! Journalist!", but in the darkness was hit by gunfire and killed. Farrell then heard British voices and shouted "British hostage", at which point he was told to come over. It was then that he realised Munadi had been killed.
Afghan journalists have been appalled at what happened to Munadi, pointing out that it is not the first time that one of their colleagues has died during a hostage crisis, while foreign reporters have been saved. The Afghan information minister has called for an inquiry, as has Rahimullah Samander, head of the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association, who said the operation showed international forces "did not care" about Afghan journalists. Unforgiveably, Munadi's body was left where it fell and was only recovered at daybreak.

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