Wounded AP journalists evacuated from Afghanistan

Other News Materials 13 August 2009 03:08 (UTC +04:00)

Two Associated Press journalists wounded in a bomb blast while on assignment with the U.S. military in southern Afghanistan were evacuated to a medical center in Dubai on Wednesday after being treated at a military hospital, AP reported.

The Army, meanwhile, released additional details of the attack, including word that two U.S. soldiers were also wounded in the bombing of a light armored vehicle called a Stryker near the Pakistani border.

Photographer Emilio Morenatti and AP Television News videographer Andi Jatmiko were traveling on Tuesday with a unit of the 5th Stryker Brigade of Fort Lewis, Wash., when their vehicle ran over a bomb planted in the open desert terrain, the military said.

All four wounded were taken by helicopter to a military hospital in Kandahar. The journalists arrived around midnight Wednesday in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where they were to receive further treatment.

Jatmiko suffered leg injuries and two broken ribs. Morenatti, badly wounded in the leg, underwent an operation in Kandahar that resulted in the loss of his left foot.

The two soldiers, who were not identified, also suffered leg wounds - one of them severe. One of the wounded soldiers crawled out of the vehicle and applied tourniquets to Morenatti and the other injured soldier, according to Capt. Denis Lortie, commander of Bear Troop, 8th Squadron of the 5th Stryker.

Four other soldiers in the vehicle were not injured, Lortie said.

The attack took place as four Stryker vehicles were on patrol 15 miles north of the town of Spin Boldak and 120 miles southeast of Dahaneh, a Taliban-held town where helicopter-borne U.S. Marines launched an operation before dawn Wednesday to uproot the militants.

Morenatti, 40, a Spaniard, is an award-winning photographer based in Islamabad who has worked for the AP in Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. He was named Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 2009 by Pictures of the Year International.

In Spain, where Morenatti is widely known, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos spoke with Morenatti's wife, Marta Ramoneda, to offer assistance, the Foreign Ministry said.

Jatmiko, 44, of Indonesia, has reported for the AP from throughout Asia for more than 10 years. Indonesian diplomats contacted the AP in Kabul to express concern for Jatmiko and seek assurances that he would be cared for.

AP President Tom Curley said their injuries reflected "the risks that journalists like Emilio and Andi encounter every day as they staff the front lines of the most dangerous spots of the world. We are grateful for their bravery and their commitment to the news. Our hearts are with them and their families, especially Emilio's wife, Marta, and Andi's wife, Pingkan."

Journalists have faced increasing danger from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as they go on assignment with Western troops carrying out new offensives as part of the effort by the United States and its allies to turn the tide of the Afghan war.

IED attacks are now the cause of the majority of U.S. and NATO deaths in Afghanistan.

According to figures from the U.S.-based Joint IED Defeat Organization, the number of incidents from IEDs soared to 828 last month, the highest level of the war and more than twice as many as in July 2008.

The IED used in Tuesday's attack employs a pressure-plate detonation mechanism to complete an electrical circuit under the weight of a passing vehicle.

Eighteen journalists were killed in Afghanistan between 1992 and 2008, making it the 11th most dangerous country in the world for media workers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least one more has been killed this year.

Journalists have also been kidnapped in Afghanistan.

In June, New York Times journalist David Rohde and Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin escaped after being held more than seven months by the Taliban. They were abducted Nov. 10 south of Kabul while heading to interview a Taliban leader, and were later moved across the border into Pakistan.

Morenatti, too, has been kidnapped, although not in Afghanistan. In October 2006, the AP photographer was abducted in Gaza City and freed unharmed after 15 hours.