- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2010

LONDON | An explosion outside a village in southern Afghanistan killed a U.S. Marine and a veteran war correspondent who became the first British journalist killed in the conflict, officials said.

With the death of Sunday Mirror journalist Rupert Hamer, 18 reporters have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to figures kept by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Tragically it was a matter of time,” former British forces commander Col. Richard Kemp told Sky News television. “Our journalists, the same as other journalists, our British journalists deploying on operations with forces in Afghanistan or Iraq face exactly the same risks as our soldiers face out there.”

Mr. Hamer, 39, and photographer Philip Coburn, 43, were accompanying a U.S. Marine patrol Saturday when their vehicle was hit by a makeshift bomb near the village of Nawa in Helmand, the Defense Ministry said.

An U.S. Marine was also killed in the blast, the ministry said. Mr. Coburn was seriously wounded in the explosion but remains in stable condition, the military said.

The Defense Ministry originally said that an Afghan soldier had been killed in the attack, but later released a revised statement saying that “there were no Afghan nationals killed or injured in this incident.” The statement cited new information gathered from the field.

The statement also said that five Marines were left badly hurt. It did not elaborate on their condition.

The past year has been particularly deadly for those fighting the war and those covering it. 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.

The Sunday Mirror said Mr. Hamer and Mr. Coburn had flown to the region on New Year’s Eve and were embedded with the U.S. 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 had previously 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.

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



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