Steve Farrell, a New York Times reporter who had been abducted while covering the bombing incident at Kunduz, has been rescued. His interpreter, tragically, died, along with an unknown number of civilians. Apparently his rescue was the result of an Afghan-led effort, and ended in a brutal firefight.
Mr. Farrell said as he and Mr. Munadi ran outside, he heard voices. “There were bullets all around us. I could hear British and Afghan voices.”
At the end of a wall, Mr. Farrell said Mr. Munadi went forward, shouting: “Journalist! Journalist!” but dropped in a hail of bullets. “I dived in a ditch,” said Mr. Farrell, who said he did not know whether the shots had come from allied or militant fire.
After a minute or two, Mr. Farrell, who holds dual Irish-British citizenship, said he heard more British voices and shouted, “British hostage!” The British voices told him to come over. As he did, Mr. Farrell said he saw Mr. Munadi.
“He was lying in the same position as he fell,” Mr. Farrell said. “That’s all I know. I saw him go down in front of me. He did not move. He’s dead. He was so close, he was just two feet in front of me when he dropped.”
While we’re unreservedly happy Mr. Farrell is home safe, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Afghans working with New York Times reporters tend to get badly harmed. During the accounts we could find of David Rohde’s escape from Waziristan, we learn his driver, for some reason, did not join him and his interpreter. Now we’re finding Mr. Farrell’s interpreter was cut down right when they were escaping.
- The media silence issue also bears contemplation. Much like Mr. Rohde’s abduction, the Times successfully kept the story under wraps, save one. Best I can tell, Bill Roggio is the only one to have persisted in posting about Mr. Farrell’s abduction over the objections of the Times and Mr. Farrell’s staff. He felt the newsworthiness of the act outweighed concerns for the reporter’s life and his family’s wishes (which is an arguable point, even though I disagree with it). His commenters, on the other hand, expressed what can only be virulent hatred of the Times and the profession of journalism. A debate is one thing; the vitriol in that thread is another.
Finally, some loose ends. While the German media has been quick to point out that Kunduz’s Governor expressed more frustration over Germany’s ineptitude than sadness at the loss of so many civilians, Mr. Farrell is reporting that locals near the bombing site were so angry they gathered in a crowd when he showed up. His interpreter also claims to have seen Pashtun men from Kandahar among the crowd, so it’s possible much more of this event—the bombing and Farrell’s capture—was orchestrated than we realize.
In either case, we are happy Mr. Farrell is home safe. And we are deeply saddened his interpreter is not.