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Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 11:10 UK

Kidnap reporter 'fearless and dedicated'

Stephen Farrell speaking in July about his previous kidnap experience

British-Irish journalist Stephen Farrell - who was abducted in Afghanistan then freed by Nato troops in a dramatic raid - is known for being a dedicated and fearless reporter, says one colleague.

Currently working for the New York Times, he has spent years reporting from the complex and often unstable regions of the Middle East and South Asia.

The kidnap from an Afghan village, on 5 September, was not the first time he had been snatched by militants.

In April 2004, while on assignment for the London Times newspaper, he was kidnapped along with a colleague while covering the siege of Falluja, in Iraq. The pair were released the same day.

Freelance journalist Stephen Grey, author of a book on the war in Afghanistan called Operation Snakebite, said Farrell's Falluja incident "did not put him off in the slightest".

"He continued to report from the frontline in Iraq. He is the sort of person who realises that you have to get out of your comfort zone beyond the wire in order to work out the truth."

You are just trying to work out which is the biggest threat - the head butt, the Kalashnikov or the knife. There is just no point in panicking
Stephen Farrell on his 2004 kidnap

Stephen Farrell joined the New York Times in 2007 as a Baghdad-based correspondent. He was previously the Middle East correspondent for the Times newspaper in the UK.

The 46 year old, who holds dual British-Irish nationality, is married.

He had travelled to Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on 4 September, to investigate an air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers, in which dozens of civilians reportedly died.

Four days later the New York Times website reported he phoned the foreign editor of the newspaper at about 0030 BST (2330 GMT) and said: "I'm out! I'm free."

Mr Farrell said he also called his wife.

He told of how Sultan Munadi, an Afghan journalist working with him as a translator, was killed during the raid.

'Nuisance journalists'

Speaking in 2004 to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about the Iraq kidnap, Mr Farrell described how the recent grisly murders of four American contractors were "fresh in my mind" as he drove off to cover the Falluja siege.

He said he and a colleague were hauled from their vehicle by bandits, who robbed them then handed them "on [up] the food chain... to people who describe themselves as the resistance, the unofficial fighters against the American-led coalition".

They were interrogated for eight to ten hours before being released.

"We were lucky, pretty much the first to be kidnapped and we managed to find some way of talking our way out of it," he told ABC.

He went on: "As we were driven away in a taxi, one guy was trying to blindfold me while head butting me at the same time. The guy on my right had a knife to my throat. The guy in front of me had a Kalashnikov to my head.

"And you are just trying to work out which is the biggest threat - the head butt, the Kalashnikov or the knife.

"There is just no point in panicking in those circumstances. You deal with them one at a time.

"You hope you don't say the wrong thing for the next eight hours, two weeks, whatever you're facing."

He said they told the truth about who they were, and "became slightly nuisance journalists".

"Fortunately, as we were able to turn the kidnap into an interview and ask them what message do you have for [former US President George] Bush, what message do you have for [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair.

"They seemed to think they could use us this way and gave us an interview and let us go."



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SEE ALSO
Four die in Afghan rescue mission
09 Sep 09 |  South Asia
UK journalist 'kidnapped' in Iraq
08 Apr 04 |  Middle East
Many die in Afghan tanker blasts
04 Sep 09 |  South Asia

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