Afghan journalists condemn ‘reckless’ rescue mission

Afghan men weep over the body of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi at a hospital in Kunduz province.
Afghan journalists on Thursday condemned the actions of a NATO commando unit that left the body of a local reporter behind during a deadly operation aimed at rescuing his British counterpart.

Taliban militants kidnapped Sultan Munadi and New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell last week. During a pre-dawn raid Wednesday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force plucked Farrell safely, but did not retrieve the body of Munadi, who died during a fierce firefight between troops and Taliban militants. A British commando was also killed, as were a woman and child. The Media Club of Afghanistan, a coalition of Afghan journalists working for foreign news outlets, called NATO’s action “reckless and double-standard behavior.” “The MCA holds the international forces responsible for the death of Mr. Munadi because they resorted in military action before exhausting other nonviolent means,” the group said in a statement. “There is no justification for the international forces to rescue their own national, and retrieve the dead body of their own soldier killed in action, but leave behind the dead body of Sultan Munadi in the area. The MCA deems this action as inhumane.” At the same time, the group demanded the Taliban apologize for the abduction, and asked international media to boycott all news provided by the militant group for three days. Armed gunmen kidnapped Farrell and Munadi on Saturday while they were covering a NATO airstrike on Taliban forces that killed at least 90 people in the northern province of Kunduz.

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In an account of his rescue, Farrell said the two men made their way out of their room into a courtyard when the gunfire began. At the end of a wall, Munadi went forward, shouting: “Journalist! Journalist!” but dropped in a hail of bullets, Farrell told the paper. He didn’t know whether the shots came from allied or militant fire. Farrell blamed himself for Munadi’s death. “He was trying to protect me up to the last minute,” he said. When they left the room to go out into the open, “he moved out in front of me,” Farrell said. Munadi, a 34-year-old father of two, worked for the Times for four years before leaving to start his own public service radio station. When the station struggled, he left for a master’s program at a university in Germany. He had returned home for the August 20 presidential elections and was working temporarily for the newspaper. In a blog entry titled ‘Hell No. I Won’t Go” that he wrote for the newspaper earlier in the month, Munadi said:

” . . . at the age of 34, it is difficult to be away from my country. I would not leave Afghanistan. I have passed the very darkest times of my country, when there was war and insecurity … “Those times are past now. Now I am hopeful of a better situation.”