- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ABOARD THE IONIAN SPIRIT (AP) — An aid ship on Thursday ferried the bodies of two Western photojournalists out of the besieged Libyan city of Misrata after they were killed and two others working alongside them were wounded while covering battles between rebels and government forces.

British-born Tim Hetherington, the Oscar-nominated co-director of the documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers at an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed Wednesday 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, also was killed Wednesday. 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 Mr. 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 the some of the most intense recent fighting in the city.

After an ambulance rushed Mr. Hetherington and photographer Guy Martin 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.

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

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

Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces have intensified their weekslong assault on Libya’s third-largest city, firing tank shells and rockets into residential areas, according to witnesses and human rights groups. NATO commanders have admitted their air power is limited in being able to protect civilians in a city — the core mission of the international air campaign.

On Thursday, the bodies of Mr. Hetherington and Mr. Hondros, along with the wounded Mr. Martin and Mr. Brown, were being taken to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi aboard the Ionian Spirit, a ferry boat that had arrived in Misrata the day before carrying food and medicine and was taking out hundreds of Libyans and foreigners fleeing the city. In Benghazi, representatives from the United States and Britain were to take custody of the bodies to arrange their evacuation from Libya.

In Washington, the White House expressed sadness over the attack and called on Libya and other governments to take steps to protect journalists.

“Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard,” press secretary Jay Carney said.

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

“Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict,” Mr. Hetherington’s family said in a statement. “He will be forever missed.”

Mr. Hetherington was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2010 documentary film “Restrepo.” The film was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm.”

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