New York Times reporter and blogger Stephen Farrell is being criticized in the wake of his rescue by British commandos, a rescue that claimed the lives of a woman, child, and a British soldier, Corporal John Harrison, 29. Commanders are expressing anger that Farrell not only ignored repeated warnings not to go to the site in hostile territory, but was specifically told by a local man that the Taliban was coming.
The soldier was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, Special Forces Support Group, which did a magnificent job in the rescue of Farrell, 46, and his interpreter, Sultan Munadi, 34. Farrell was investigating the scene of a US air strike on fuel tankers which the Taliban alleged was a massacre of innocent civilians. Once there, an elderly man ran up to warn him to flee because of the approaching Taliban.
Both police and intelligence officers repeatedly told Farrell that it was too dangerous to go to the site. This is the second time that Farrell has been taken hostage. The herefirst time was in Iraq five years ago.
A British officer was understandably upset with the loss of this true hero: “When you look at the number of warnings this person had it makes you really wonder whether he was worth rescuing, whether it was worth the cost of a soldier’s life. In the future special forces might think twice in a similar situation.” Another officer joined in: “This reporter went to this area against the advice of the Afghan police. So thanks very much Stephen Farrell, your irresponsible act has led to the death of one of our boys.”
It is a tough call for journalists who cannot always comply with restrictions by local police or the military — which may not want independent review of such areas. However, it is also a lesson for reporters that, if you are captured, it is possible that others may pay the price for a risky journalistic mission. Frankly, as a stronghold of the Taliban, this area seemed far too risky for such a venture, particularly given the fanaticism of Taliban.
For Farrell’s account, click here.
For the full story, click here.