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Asia-pacific

British soldier, interpreter killed in raid to free journalist

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-11-16

A British soldier was killed during a rescue operation to free New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell (photo), who was captured and held hostage by the Taliban for four days in Afghanistan. Farrell's interpreter Sultan Munadi was also killed.

AFP - For seasoned reporter Stephen Farrell, who has built a career dicing with war zones, Wednesday's rescue by NATO commandos in Afghanistan marked a second escape from the clutches of armed kidnappers.
  
Taliban snatched The New York Times reporter, who has British-Irish nationality, on Saturday as he interviewed villagers with an Afghan colleague near incinerated fuel trucks blown apart in a NATO missile strike.
  
Four days later, the married 46-year-old's ordeal came to an end when NATO commandos staged an airborne raid before dawn to retrieve him, but interpreter Sultan Munadi was killed in gunfire during the rescue effort.
  
Farrell's first words after his release, according to the New York Times, were: "I'm out! I'm free!", after another brush with militants.
  
Shown dressed in white shalwar khamis in a photograph published from his reporting trip, Farrell sported a greying beard and traditional looking cap in a bid to blend into the increasingly volatile Kunduz province.
  
An experienced and well-respected reporter, Farrell is the chief blogger for the newspaper's At War blog, tasked with reporting from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, in print and video.
  
He joined The New York Times' Baghdad bureau in July 2007 and was formerly Middle East correspondent for British newspaper The Times, covering Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
  
In April 2004, the bulky, shaven-headed journalist was kidnapped and held captive for about eight hours at gunpoint near Baghdad.
  
Writing about his ordeal in The Times, the reporter described the moment when Iraqi bandits forced his car from the road.
  
"On to the hard shoulder, a loop as wide and fast as a three-tonne armoured Mercedes can handle safely and we were hurtling in the other direction towards safety," he wrote. But a flat tyre scuppered the getaway.
  
With rocket-propelled grenades aimed at their heads, Farrell and a US woman journalist were forced into a car and taken to a village elder, who accused them of being spies.
  
In the end, Farrell quipped, it was his once-abundant hair that saved the day.
  
As the elder pointed to Farrell's shaven head and accused him of having the haircut of a soldier, his bags turned up.
  
"And in the first pile is a seven-year-old scuba diving card showing my former locks in all their glory. 'See, not soldier. Just bald.' Laughter, the ice breaks," he wrote.
  
Minus cash and some belongings, Farrell's captors politely drove him back to Baghdad -- a vastly different escape to Wednesday, when it took a hail of bullets and the life of a colleague and a British soldier to save him.
  

Date created : 2009-09-09

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