UK Journalist and US Marine Die in Afghan Bomb Blast

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British Journalist and American Marine Die in Afghan Bomb Explosion

Published: January 10, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — A British journalist embedded with an American unit in Helmand Province was killed along with a Marine when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb, the British Defense Ministry reported Sunday. It was the second time in two weeks that a Western journalist had been killed on an embedded assignment, underscoring the increased risk on the roads as military operations intensify in Afghanistan.

Rupert Hamer, a British journalist for the Sunday Mirror, was killed on Saturday by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

A roadside bomb killed two near the town of Nawa.

The journalist killed was Rupert Hamer, 39, the military correspondent for The Sunday Mirror newspaper, who was accompanying a United States Marines patrol northwest of the town of Nawa on Saturday. The dead Marine was not identified pending notification of next of kin, and United States officials would release no details about the episode.

The British government reported that four other United States Marines were seriously wounded by the bomb, and that a photographer in the vehicle, Philip Coburn, 43, was seriously wounded but was in stable condition at a military hospital in the area.

Mr. Hamer was only the second Western journalist killed while embedded with American or allied troops in Afghanistan since 2001. The first was on Dec. 30, when the Canadian journalist Michelle Lang was killed along with four Canadian soldiers in Kandahar Province when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

In August, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan, outlined in an assessment he made to President Obama the need for troops to take a more active role, and since then the tempo of patrols and missions outside of bases has greatly increased.

So have military casualties: The International Security and Assistance Force, as the American-led alliance is called, lost 520 soldiers, mostly from roadside bombs, last year — far more than the 295 who died in Afghanistan in 2008, according to, an independent Web site that tracks military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. American and British troops had the majority of casualties.

The fighting and bombing have continued even in the midst of the normally severe Afghan winter, which has recently been unusually mild.

General McChrystal pointedly said that the days were over when Afghanistan was “a cyclical kinetic campaign based on a set ‘fighting season.’ ” Rather, he said, “It is a continuous, yearlong effort.”

“The more coalition forces are seen and known by the local population, the more their threat will be reduced,” General McChrystal wrote, criticizing the NATO coalition for in the past being “preoccupied with force protection.”

The intensified military campaign has also meant that more journalists have come here to cover it, often finding out firsthand the heightened risks that troops have been facing.

“Afghanistan is becoming a more dangerous place as the war ramps up and the U.S. comes in and begins an increase in troop numbers,” said Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. He said that unlike most countries, where journalists who were killed were local people, “What we’re seeing is a large number of non-Afghan journalists dying.”

In all, 18 journalists have been killed since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 — 12 of them foreigners. But until the past two weeks, none of the other foreigners had been killed while accompanying American or British troops, according to data compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In recent months, embedded journalists have frequently reported that their assignments in Afghanistan have been much more dangerous than previously. “We had contact every day; every day we have been shot at,” said Franco Pagetti, an Italian news photographer with the agency VII, who just returned from two weeks in the Korengal Valley in Kunar Province, where he accompanied a United States Army infantry unit.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists released a statement saying that Mr. Hamer’s death “shows that Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most dangerous reporting assignments.” It continued: “Traveling with the Army does not lessen the risk to reporters. Indeed, as this tragedy shows, it can put journalists directly in the firing line.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain said he was “deeply saddened by this tragic news.” The Sunday Mirror’s editor, Tina Weaver, praised Mr. Hamer, who was a father of three young children and who had made five trips to Afghanistan to report on the war, according to a statement that the paper released. “Affectionately known as Corporal Hamer in the office, he was a gregarious figure, a wonderful friend who was hugely popular with his colleagues,” Ms. Weaver said.

In Tarinkot, the capital of Uruzgan Province, three Afghan aid workers employed by a German relief agency, GTZ, were killed when the pickup truck that they were in struck a landmine on Sunday, said the provincial police chief, Juma Gul Himat.

Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan, and John F. Burns from London.


Book Reviewer
Since y'all don't get the paper that side:

In just a few years, both Rupert and photographer Phil Coburn - who was badly injured in the Helmand explosion - became a well-known frontline double-act.

Soldiers got to know and love these two because they engaged with the troops, understanding their humour and fitting in superbly with whichever unit they were embedded.

I spoke to both Rupert and Phil just a few days ago.

They were in a camp in the Afghan capital Kabul, waiting to start their embed with the US Marines.

Both of them were in good spirits, wanting to get on with the job and get home to their families. We talked about the dangers of reporting in Helmand Province, where they were headed.

Neither man was gung-ho. Rupert was a careful reporter and would not take risks. He spent months planning this trip.

At the weekend, after some delay, they had joined a US convoy heading north west of Nawa in Helmand.

The group was travelling along a rural road at midday local time when their vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device - the dreaded roadside bomb that has claimed the lives of so many in this war-torn country.

Rupert and a US Marine were killed in the huge explosion that followed and Phil was seriously injured along with five other soldiers.

Phil was evacuated by a helicopter medical emergency response team to a field hospital at Camp Bastion.

He is due to be flown to Birmingham Selly Oak hospital for specialist care some time today.

Rupert's body will be repatriated at a private ceremony this morning.

Among the small band of defence correspondents who cover the Ministry of Defence and the three services, Rupert was one of the most respected.

But he was always modest and never sought praise for his work.
He just loved doing his job and was very good at it.

Rupert covered the Armed Forces across the Middle East and central Asia, the Oman, Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.

With Phil, he managed to produce some of the best dispatches from war zones - particularly from Afghanistan.

They covered the taking of Musa Qala, a former Taliban stronghold, at Christmas 2007. The pair spent weeks living in appalling conditions and witnessing horrific sights.

Typically, Rupert never talked about his experience, nor did Phil.

Once back in the UK, Rupert took great care to stay in touch with many of the servicemen they wrote about and photographed. Only a few weeks ago, a soldier approached me in Helmand Province and asked me if I knew Rupert and Phil.

I told him I did and he replied: "Great blokes, two minutes with those two and you forget you are fighting a war.

"They went down a storm when they joined our unit."

Yesterday, tabloid and broadsheet journalists called from all over the world to express their shock and sadness over Rupert's death.

It is a measure of the friend and colleague that we will all miss terribly that so many people are so devastated by this tragedy.

Rupert showed early signs of a love of journalism, editing a newspaper for pupils at Gresham's School in Norfolk where he was brought up.

Straight from school, he joined the Eastern Daily Press as a runner. Bosses were so impressed, he was soon taken on as a trainee reporter.

Having passed his journalism proficiency exam he decided to take some time out and study for a degree in politics at Leeds University in 1991. He graduated in 1994.

He then got a job at the Bournemouth Evening Echo in Dorset where he worked for three years.

It was there he met his wife Helen, a fellow reporter on the paper.

Rupert moved to London around 1997 without any job to go to.

He did shifts for a news agency before landing a full-time post at the Sunday Mirror. He was later appointed Defence Correspondent. In this coveted role, Rupert has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan many times over the past few years.
No further details on the Marine who was killed or the four USMC injured here.
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