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Bodies of two photographers killed in Libya arrive in Benghazi

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "To me, the most important thing is just figuring out the way to cover it"
  • Bodies arrive in Benghazi
  • Hondros always took steps to minimize risks, a friend says
  • In a recent video clip in Libya, Hondros described young unarmed teens

Benghazi, Libya (CNN) -- The ship carrying the bodies of a U.S. and a British journalist killed Wednesday in Misrata reached port Thursday night in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Oscar nominee Tim Hetherington and acclaimed photojournalist Chris Hondros died Wednesday while chronicling the gritty violence in the war-torn city of Misrata in Libya, their agencies said. Two other photojournalists were hurt in the incident, according to news reports.

The International Organization for Migration ship, called the Ionian Spirit, was greeted by a number of young Libyans and about 20 rebel fighters.

At the port, people carried banners reading, "US and UK with your loss, you shared with us the price of freedom" and "US and UK your blood was mixed with ours in Misrata."

Friends of the journalists remembered them Thursday as brave men committed to finding and exposing the truth even in dangerous conditions.

Hondros had written an e-mail Wednesday "basically saying that everything was fine and stable and he was enjoying his assignment and getting some good photographs," his friend Greg Campbell, who recently travelled to Libya with Hondros, told CNN.

Gallery: Chris Hondros' final photos
Photojournalist Hetherington killed in Libya
Two photojournalists killed in Misrata
On the front lines

"Every time you're in an environment like that, I think in the back of your mind you've realized that you may not come out of there," Campbell said. He and Hondros covered conflicts in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, and Nigeria together, he said. Hondros "was always very, very safe. He realized the risks and he tried to minimize them as much as possible. So when I was traveling with Chris, we would take as many precautions as we possibly could."

"There are times, unfortunately, when you just don't know which decision is right or wrong. Unfortunately, that's what Tim and Chris found themselves in."

Hetherington received an Academy Award nomination this year for "Restrepo," a documentary chronicling the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. It was co-directed by journalist Sebastian Junger. Employed by Panos Pictures, Hetherington also worked with CNN in Afghanistan two years ago.

CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen described Hetherington as humble, modest and a gentleman skilled in the taking of gritty photos of combat.

"'Restrepo' was a labor of love for Tim; he had a great deal of empathy for the young soldiers he documented," Bergen wrote. "The resulting film is not only the best documentary about war I have ever seen, it is simply one of the greatest of all war films, sharing the epic quality of movies like 'Apocalypse Now' or 'Full Metal Jacket.' It is also very beautifully shot, revealing Tim's great sense of picture composition."

Hetherington's last Twitter entry appears to have been made Tuesday: "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

The journalists were walking in the front-line area at the end of Tripoli Street on the western edge of Misrata when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded, according to a town resident who wanted to be identified only as "Mohammed" for safety reasons. The group was traveling with rebel fighters, he said.

Vanity Fair magazine, where Hetherington, 40, was a contributing photographer, described him as "widely respected by his peers for his bravery and camaraderie." Its profile says he had dual U.S. and British citizenship.

Vanity Fair released a statement from Hetherington's family. "Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict," it said. "He will be forever missed."

Hondros, 41, suffered a fatal brain injury, according to The New York Times, which had a reporter in the hospital who spoke to a colleague at a triage center.

Getty Images, Hondros' employer, said it was "deeply saddened" by his passing:

"Chris never shied away from the front line having covered the world's major conflicts throughout his distinguished career and his work in Libya was no exception. We are working to support his family and his fiancee as they receive this difficult news, and are preparing to bring Chris back to his family and friends in the United States. He will be sorely missed."

Hondros, born in New York City to immigrant parents, won the 2005 Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club of America for coverage of Iraq. He was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize breaking news photography finalist for "his powerful and courageous coverage of the bloody upheaval in Liberia."

Hondros' work is featured in a multimedia exhibit slated to open May 7 in Chicago that features war images and is called Conflict Zone.

At a panel discussion on war reporting in 2006 put on by the International Reporting Project in Washington, Hondros -- who had been to Iraq nine times by then -- had little sympathy for journalists who complained about conditions on the ground.

"I can talk about how I wish it was," he said, "but, to me, the most important thing is just figuring out the way to cover it, which is what war journalists do all over the world."

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He said he was disappointed to hear that news organizations were having a hard time finding volunteers to go to Baghdad. "I understand it from a human level, but it's kind of surprising to me from a personal, journalistic one," he said.

Guy Martin, a British citizen working for Panos Pictures, a photo agency, suffered shrapnel wounds to the pelvis and underwent vascular surgery Wednesday night, according to The New York Times. Mohammed said Martin was in critical but stable condition.

Photographer Michael Christopher Brown suffered non life-threatening shrapnel wounds to his left shoulder.

James Hider, Middle East correspondent for the Times of London, told CNN the four journalists were documenting fighting on Tripoli Street in Misrata.

Hider said he was at a hospital and saw Hetherington die in a triage tent. "It was shocking."

The journalists, including Hetherington, had traveled Saturday by boat from Benghazi to Misrata, enjoying jokes and making sandwiches for refugees, Hider said.

Martin and Brown remained hospitalized in Misrata, Human Rights Watch said.

The office of the White House press secretary expressed concern about the safety of journalists in the country. "The Libyan government and all governments across the world must take steps to protect journalists doing this vital work," it said in a statement.

The office said, "Chris's tragic death underscores the need to protect journalists as they cover conflicts across the globe."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said four journalists have died in the Libyan conflict. "Two other journalists have been killed this year in the Libyan conflict. An unknown gunman killed Mohammed al-Nabbous, founder of the online Libya Al-Hurra TV, as the journalist was streaming live audio from a battle in Benghazi on March 19. Cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaberwas shot when his Al-Jazeera crew was ambushed near Benghazi on March 13," the group said on its website.

CPJ has documented more than 80 attacks on members of the news media since unrest erupted in Libya in February, including "numerous injuries, 49 detentions, 11 assaults, two attacks on news facilities, the jamming of two international television transmissions, at least four instances of obstruction, the expulsion of two international journalists, and the interruption of Internet service. At least six local journalists are missing amid speculation they are in the custody of security forces. One international journalist and two media support workers are also unaccounted for."

"Our hearts go out to family, friends, and colleagues of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, whose work in some of the world's most dangerous places has had a profound impact on how we understand and perceive war," said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. "Their deaths are another illustration of war's cruelty and a reminder of how devastatingly difficult coverage of the Libyan conflict has become."

After Hetherington's death, Jalal al Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels, issued a statement saying, "This is no longer the Gadhafi regime taking on Libya's people. This is Gadhafi taking on the world. He has spared no one, not women, not children, not journalists. This is now everybody's war."

CNN's Saad Abedine, Joe Sterling, Chelsea J. Carter, Katy Byron, Phil Gast and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report.

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