Freed N.H. journalist mourns colleague

Describes attack by Libyan forces

Diane and John Foley of Rochester, N.H., parents of GlobalPost journalist James Foley (left). Diane and John Foley of Rochester, N.H., parents of GlobalPost journalist James Foley (left). (Cheryl Senter/Associated Press)
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / May 20, 2011

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James Foley, the journalist from New Hampshire who was freed on Wednesday after six weeks in captivity in Libya, yesterday lamented the death of a colleague who was killed in an attack by forces loyal to dictator Moammar Khadafy.

Foley told his Boston-based outlet, GlobalPost, an online international news agency, that the slain journalist, Anton Hammerl of South Africa, was shot by Khadafy loyalists near Brega on April 5.

“It all happened in a split second. We thought we were in the crossfire. But, eventually, we realized they were shooting at us. You could see and hear the bullets hitting the ground near us,’’ Foley told the GlobalPost from a hotel in Tunisia.

He could not be reached for further comment last night. A GlobalPost staffer handling media inquires on his behalf said he would not be available for comment until he returned to the United States.

Foley said Hammerl cried out for help after he was hit, but his cries ended after a third barrage of gunfire.

Foley and two other journalists — Clare Morgana Gillis, who has written for The Atlantic and USA Today, and Manuel Varela, a Spanish photographer who works under the name Manu Brabo — were taken into custody by the loyalists and were freed Wednesday. A fourth journalist, Nigel Chandler, a British freelancer, was also released, GlobalPost said.

Last night in a phone interview, Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said from her Rochester, N.H., home that the death of Hammerl was very saddening but she and her husband “feel very blessed’’ that her son will be coming home. She said travel arrangements have not yet been finalized for her son, who is staying at a hotel in Tunisia.

She also praised the staff of the Hungarian Embassy in Tripoli for what she said was its tireless work on behalf of her son and his colleagues during their captivity.

“They were just amazingly dedicated,’’ she said.

Foley told GlobalPost yesterday that speaking publicly about Hammerl’s death was a moral imperative.

“We knew collectively that if we spoke about Hammerl’s death while we were detained, then we would be in greater danger ourselves. But now that we’re free, it’s our moral imperative to tell the story of this great journalist and father,’’ he said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at