A journalist’s price for going undercover

This smells fishy (and displays the kind of overly macho attitude all-too-common in the “war on terror”):

Hostage negotiators expressed shock and anger at Gordon Brown’s decision to approve a commando raid to free a kidnapped British journalist, saying that they were within days of securing his release through peaceful means.

Stephen Farrell — who was in Afghanistan for The New York Times — was not harmed in the raid but his Afghan translator, Sultan Munadi, and a British soldier from the Special Forces Support Group were killed. The men were being held at a house in Kharudi in northern Afghanistan. Just after midnight on Tuesday US helicopters dropped British special forces and Afghan troops in the village. Taleban militants fled the house and a fierce battle ensued. At least one civilian and scores of militants were killed.

Farrell has written a long description of his ordeal and it makes for fascinating reading:

Mid-to-late morning on Friday, Sept. 4, we in the Kabul bureau began hearing reports of an explosion in a Taliban-controlled area near the northern city of Kunduz.

It was clear that this was going to be a major controversy, involving allegations of civilian deaths against NATO claims that the dead were Taliban. Furthermore, it was in an area that was becoming increasingly newsworthy because it was becoming more troubled by insurgents.

My colleague Rich Oppel and I began discussing the story, and I forewarned the Afghan staff that they should at least begin thinking about logistics for a possible drive north, for a decision to be taken later.

The drivers made a few phone calls and said the road north appeared to be safe until mid- to late afternoon. It was close to the cut-off point, but if we left immediately we could do it. We left within minutes.

En route, I called in to the bureau to check with Rich on how the story was developing. He said the Kunduz police were saying that there were only adult male patients at the main hospital in Kunduz, leaving it unclear whether they were civilians or Taliban.

We saw that the highway we were on was going to pass through Ali Abad, a village near the location of the blast.