Freed journalists urge backers to keep slain colleague in mind

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IN THEIR THOUGHTS James Foley (left) and Clare Morgana Gillis said South African Anton Hammerl was fatally shot by forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. IN THEIR THOUGHTS
James Foley (left) and Clare Morgana Gillis said South African Anton Hammerl was fatally shot by forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy.
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / May 23, 2011

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Two journalists from New England who were freed Wednesday after six weeks of detention in Libya took to the Internet over the weekend to implore supporters to remember a slain colleague.

Clare Morgana Gillis, a journalist from Connecticut who has reported for several outlets including the Globe, and James Foley, a reporter from New Hampshire who is a correspondent for the Boston-based news agency GlobalPost, asked people to remember South African journalist Anton Hammerl, who they said was fatally shot April 5 by forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy.

Gillis wrote Saturday on Facebook that she was “safe and home’’ in New Haven and urged supporters to say a prayer or light a candle for Hammerl.

Gillis, a former Cambridge resident who received a doctorate in history from Harvard last year and reported for the Globe from Egypt in February, also wrote that Khadafy’s government “has a lot to answer for and we need to keep the pressure on them until they do it.’’

“We really want to just spend time together as a family, and we’re very glad that she’s home,’’ Gillis’s mother, Jane, said in a brief phone interview.

Khadafy loyalists attacked Gillis, Foley, Hammerl, and Manuel Varela, a Spanish photographer who works under the name Manu Brabo, according to GlobalPost.

Foley told the news agency on Thursday that he was with Hammerl near Brega and heard him cry out for help after being shot. Foley also said the loyalists punched him and his colleagues, and struck his head and jaw with the butt of an assault rifle.

The reporters spent time in multiple detention centers in Tripoli before being released along with British freelance journalist Nigel Chandler, according to GlobalPost. Foley and Gillis could not be reached for comment yesterday.

“Release after 45 days and back in NH,’’ Foley said Saturday on his Twitter feed. “Please pray for the family of Anton Hammerl. He was truly the best of us.’’

Hammerl is one of 17 journalists who have been killed this year while covering conflicts around the globe, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group. The committee says that 862 journalists have been killed since 1992 and 145 are imprisoned worldwide.

Foley worked as an embedded reporter with US troops in Iraq shortly after completing his graduate studies in 2008 at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, according to a biography posted on, a website that supporters created after he was detained.

He has also covered the war in Afghanistan and his video reports from the conflict have appeared on CBS and the “PBS NewsHour,’’ according to the site.

His GlobalPost report “On Location: A firefight in Kunar Province,’’ was an official honoree at this year’s Webby Awards, which honor excellence in digital media and advertising from around the globe.

“He’s someone who definitely believes that the stories of war need to be told,’’ said Michael Joyce, a close friend who lives in West Roxbury. Joyce was part of a group of supporters who worked to publicize the detention of Foley and his colleagues.

He said he welcomed the news of Foley’s arrival in New Hampshire. “It’s what we’ve been waiting to hear,’’ he said.

GlobalPost executive editor Charles Sennott echoed those sentiments yesterday in a brief phone interview.

“This is a time for family,’’ Sennott said. “We know how relieved and happy they are to have him home, as are we all.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at