- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 10, 2010

LONDON — An explosion in southern Afghanistan killed a British journalist, a U.S. Marine and an Afghan soldier, Britain’s military said Sunday.

The Sunday Mirror’s defense correspondent, Rupert Hamer, 39, and photographer Philip Coburn, 43, were accompanying a U.S. Marine patrol Saturday when a makeshift bomb hit the vehicle in which they were traveling near the village of Nawa in Helmand, the Defense Ministry said.

Mr. Coburn and four Marines were wounded seriously in the blast, the military said. British media said that Mr. Hamer was the first British journalist to have been killed in Afghanistan.

The past year has been particularly deadly for those fighting the war and those covering it. British and American casualties have surged as both countries poured more troops into the war.

Canadian journalist Michelle Lang died late last year while embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. An Afghan translator for the New York Times, Sultan Munadi, was killed in September during a rescue operation.

Mr. Hamer’s death brings to 18 the number of reporters slain in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, according to figures kept by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Sunday Mirror said that Mr. Hamer and Mr. Coburn had flown to the region on New Year’s Eve and were embedded with the American military. Their trip was to have lasted for a month, the paper said.

Both were veterans of reporting from conflict zones. It was Mr. Hamer’s fifth excursion to Afghanistan, while Mr. Coburn previously had reported from Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda.

“Rupert believed that the only place to report a war was from the front line, and as our defense correspondent he wanted to be embedded with the U.S. Marines at the start of their vital surge into southern Afghanistan,” Sunday Mirror Editor Tina Weaver said in a statement.

Mr. Hamer is survived by his wife, Helen, and three young children, the paper said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the pair’s “courage, skill and dedication to reporting from the front line,” something he said ensured that the world could “see and read” about what international forces were achieving in Afghanistan.

British Defense Minister Bob Ainsworth said Mr. Hamer and Mr. Coburn accompanied him on his most recent trip to Afghanistan and that he was “impressed by their hard work and professionalism.”

“My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of both men at this extremely distressing time,” Mr. Ainsworth said.

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