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Libya rebel capital pays homage to slain photographers

Tim Hetherington of Vanity Fair and Chris Hondros of Getty honored in Benghazi after dying while documenting Misrata battle

AFP , Friday 22 Apr 2011
Libya
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Mourners in the Libyan rebel capital of Benghazi paid homage overnight to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, two award-winning war photographers killed in the besieged western city of Misrata.

Around 30 people -- journalists, diplomats, aid agency representatives and rebels -- gathered at the Tibesti Hotel with candles in hand soon after their bodies arrived on a ferry in the eastern port city.

Two cameras were placed between symbolic candles on a table for the ceremony, where the bodies of the slain men remained resting under covers.

"They are heroes... They came to witness the conflict for the world. We cannot prevent journalists from going to the front," said Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, vice president of the rebel Transitional National Council.

Diplomatic representatives from Britain and the United States also praised the courage and "humanity" of the two photographers.

Hetherington, a 40-year-old Briton with dual US nationality who resided in New York, worked for the magazine Vanity Fair and was nominated for an Oscar for a documentary he directed, "Restrepo," on Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch said Hetherington worked with the New York-based group on several human rights stories over the years, including assignments to Darfur, Chad and Sri Lanka.

"We are saddened by his death and extend our deepest condolences to his family and countless friends. His enormous credibility helped to establish Human Rights Watch as a legitimate partner in the photography world," the group said in a statement.

"This is a devastating loss to many of us personally. But it is also a devastating loss to the human rights community. His work has raised the visibility of many of the world's forgotten conflicts. The legacy of his exceptional photographs will serve to inspire those following in his footsteps."

Hondros, 41, was a US photographer for Getty, a partner agency of AFP. His work featured in publications around the world.

The two were killed Wednesday by a mortar strike as they were covering vicious combat in Misrata's shattered central district, along the main Tripoli Street.

They were taking pictures of a rebel assault on a building used by snipers stationed there by forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi, who have been blasting Misrata for more than six weeks to counter the insurgency there.

According to witnesses, it was just as they were pulling out that the mortar whistled in and struck their group.

Hetherington, who was not wearing body armour or a helmet, died almost immediately from multiple wounds including one to an artery.

Hondros, who was wearing protective gear, suffered a critical head wound that fractured his skull. He died hours later in hospital.

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