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A group of Afghan journalists has blasted the British commando raid that rescued New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell and killed Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi and a British soldier, blaming the troops for Mr. Munadi's death.
The group, called the Media Club of Afghanistan, condemned the troops for exercising a "double standard" by rescuing Mr. Farrell and retrieving the body of the British soldier killed in the operation but leaving Munadi's body, reports the Associated Press. The group called the action "inhumane." The two reporters had entered Kunduz in northern Afghanistan to report about a NATO bombing that had reportedly killed civilians, despite warnings that the area was unsafe.
Munadi's body was later retrieved after negotiations with village elders, and reporters from the Media Club Thursday laid flowers at his grave in Kabul.
Fazul Rahim, an Afghan producer for CBS News who was involved in drafting the journalists' statement, said the troops' leaving the body showed a lack of respect.
"It shows a double standard between a foreign life and an Afghan life," he said.
The group said it held NATO responsible for launching the mission before exhausting other options. That criticism has surfaced in London, as well, where some Western officials told The Times of London that British forces acted too hastily going in to rescue the journalists. Negotiations had begun within 24 hours of the kidnapping and nearly 300 local elders were already speaking with the kidnappers, trying to persuade them that Farrell and his interpreter were just two reporters doing their job, the newspaper reports.
"It was totally heavy-handed. If they'd showed a bit of patience and respect they could have got both of them out without firing a bullet. Instead, they ended up having one of their own killed, the Afghan killed and civilians killed. There's a lot of
[angry] people at the moment," [said a Western official involved in the situation].
The Daily Telegraph reports that the raid was approved by the British foreign and defense ministers. The paper also reports that after the criticism the operation has engendered, British forces may not act so quickly to rescue a reporter again.
One senior Army source told The Daily Telegraph: "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." ...
Hugh McManners, a former special forces officer, said: "There is quite a heavy burden of responsibility that [Mr Farrell] should bear."
For his part, Farrell has thanked the soldiers who rescued him, saying that his gratitude "will never be enough," reports the BBC. He also paid respects to Munadi, who he said "died trying to help me."
In his blog on The New York Times website, Farrell has defended his actions, saying that he and Munadi took the necessary precautions. Before leaving for Kunduz, his drivers verified that the roads were safe and after stopping at a hospital en route to the bombing site, they waited overnight to do the rest of the reporting in the daytime when it would be safer. Before going to the bombing site, he again verified with his local driver that the situation was safe.
In his last story for The New York Times, Munadi, who had lived in Germany, said he wanted to come back to his country and work to improve education there. He expressed optimism, saying he was "hopeful of a better situation" for Afghanistan.
[Editor's note: The original misspelled Sultan Munadi's name.]