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Two Award-Winning Photojournalists Killed By Mortar Fire in Libya

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Mortar fire in the rebel-held city of Misrata claimed the lives of at least 10 civilians on Wednesday. Among the dead: seven Libyan civilians, a Ukrainian doctor, and two Western journalists.

Tim Hetherington, an award-winning photojournalist and Oscar-nominee for his documentary Restrepo, and Chris Hondros, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer, were both killed. Guy Martin of Panos and Michael Brown of the Corvis agency were also injured.

The rebel-held western city has been under attack for several weeks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The news was broken on fellow photographer Andre Liohn’s Facebook page. The British-born Hetherington worked from Liberia, Sudan, and other war zones. In 2010, he made the documentary Restrepo with journalist Sebastian Junger. The film, which chronicled a year in the life of an American infantry platoon stationed deep in the remote, dangerous Korengal Valley, was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary.

Hetherington posted on Twitter on Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

The Guardian reports: “According to colleagues at the scene, Hetherington and Hondros were among a group of about eight or 10 journalists reporting from the bridge on Tripoli Street in Misrata on Wednesday afternoon, regarded as the frontline between rebels and Gaddafi’s forces. When shooting broke out, the group split in two. Hetherington’s group of five journalists took shelter against a wall, which was then hit by mortar or RPG fire. Rushed to hospital, Hetherington died soon after arrival.”

The Washington Post added: “The journalists had accompanied rebel fighters to Tripoli Street in the city center, which Gaddafi’s forces pounded with mortar fire in an attempt to retake the strategic road that divides Misurata. An ambulance took Hetherington and Guy Martin, 28, a British freelance photographer working for the news agency Panos, from the battle to the makeshift triage tent next to the Hikma hospital about 5 p.m. Hetherington was bleeding heavily from his leg and looked very pale.”

The New York Times’ Lens photoblog has paid a nice tribute to Hondros with a sample of his work in Libya days before this incident. Foreign Policy also posted a heartfelt note about the magazine’s fallen friend and offered an absolutely stunning gallery of his work, including this:

Life Magazine also pays tribute to photojournalist Chris Hondros, who was also killed yesterday. And The Atlantic is featuring a gallery of the last shots he took in the war zone before dying.

There’s also “Diary,” a 19-minute documentary from Hetherington, who reflects on his decade of reporting using “a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.” The “highly personal and experimental” film was also the last one that Hetherington made before being killed in Libya.

If you get a chance, seek out Restrepo. How it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Documentary is a puzzle.

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