April 21, 2011 in City

Western journalists killed in rebel-held Libyan city

Photographer, film director were with rebels
Ben Hubbard Associated Press
 

Hetherington
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

U.S. plans $25 million in aid

 WASHINGTON – The Obama administration plans to give the Libyan opposition $25 million in nonlethal assistance in the first direct U.S. aid to the rebels after weeks of assessing their capabilities and intentions, officials said Wednesday.

 Amid a debate over whether to offer the rebels broader assistance, including cash and possibly weapons and ammunition, the administration has informed Congress that President Barack Obama intends to use his so-called drawdown authority to give the opposition, led by the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, up to $25 million in surplus American goods.

 Initially, the administration had proposed supplying the rebels with vehicles and portable fuel storage tanks, but those items were dropped from the list of potential aid on Wednesday after concerns were expressed that those could be converted into offensive military assets. The list is still being revised but now covers items such as medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and Halal meals, which are meals prepared according to Islamic tradition.

MISRATA, Libya – Two Western photojournalists, including an Oscar-nominated film director, were killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Misrata while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces. Two others working alongside them were wounded.

British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, was also killed. His work appeared in major magazines and newspapers around the world, and his awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, one of the highest prizes in war photography.

Many circumstances of the incident were unclear. A statement from Hetherington’s family said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The Washington Post reported that the journalists had gone with rebel fighters to Tripoli Street in the center of Misrata, scene of some of the most intense recent fighting in the city.

After an ambulance rushed Hetherington to a triage tent, an American photographer whose bulletproof vest was splattered with blood implored the drivers to go back for more victims, the Post reported.

Hetherington was bleeding heavily from his leg and died about 15 minutes after he reached the triage facility, while Hondos died after suffering a severe brain injury from shrapnel, the Post reported.

The two other photographers – Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown – were treated for shrapnel wounds, doctors said.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces have intensified their weeks-long assault on Libya’s third-largest city, firing tank shells and rockets into residential areas, according to witnesses and human rights groups.

Hetherington, 40, was killed a day after he tweeted: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

Hetherington was born in Liverpool and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries “Liberia: An Uncivil War” and “The Devil Came on Horseback.” He also produced pieces for ABC News’ “Nightline.”

Hetherington was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2010 documentary film “Restrepo.” The film tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

Hondros, 41, had covered conflict zones since the late 1990s, capturing clutching, jeering and fearful moments from wars including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. One front-page New York Times photo from 2007 showed a Humvee patrol in Iraq from a different angle: The ruddy hands of an Iraqi interpreter and a pair of muddied boots belonging to a gunner.

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