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Image: Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros and photojournalist Tim Hetherington
Getty Images / Handout  /  EPA
Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, left, stands in front of a burning building while on assignment, in Misrata, Libya, on Monday. At right, photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who directed the documentary 'Restrepo,'  is seen during an assignment for Vanity Fair Magazine in Afghanistan. Both died Wednesday covering fighting in Misrata.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 4/21/2011 11:38:51 AM ET 2011-04-21T15:38:51

An Oscar-nominated war-film director and a second prize-winning photojournalist died covering a battle between rebels and Libyan government forces in the western city of Misrata on Wednesday.

Two other Western photographers apparently working alongside them were wounded.

British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the 2010 documentary "Restrepo" about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, died later Wednesday after suffering a serious head wound, according to Getty's director of photography, Pancho Bernasconi.

Neither of the men had protective gear with them, colleague Andre Liohn told The New York Times. The report said Liohn was at the triage center where medics treated the injured journalists after the attack.

Protective equipment has been difficult to bring into Libya from Egypt, The Times report said, as customs officials have thwarted the transport of equipment like helmets and flak jackets.

Doctors said two other photographers were treated for shrapnel wounds: Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown, a New York-based photographer originally from Skagit Valley, Wash.

The bodies of Hetherington, 41, and Hondros, 41, were taken from Misrata to Benghazi on Thursday by the International Organization for Migration aboard the Ionian Spirit, which had been brought in to evacuate civilians from Misrata, according to a statement by Human Rights Watch.

Jeremy Haslam, a coordinator for the Geneva-based organization, said the boat had more than 1,000 evacuees, including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

Martin and Brown remained in the hospital in Misrata.

PhotoBlog: Interview with Tim Hetherington
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Martin had shrapnel wounds and was undergoing surgery Wednesday night, The New York Times reported. Brown had shrapnel wounds but his life was reportedly not in danger.

The photographers were reporting from inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, which has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Hetherington tweeted Tuesday: "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

The circumstances of the incident were unclear. Statements from Hetherington's family and from Peter N. Boukaert of Human Rights Watch in Geneva, said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Leila Fadel, a Washington Post reporter who was at the hospital, reported that Hetherington was rushed from the battle by ambulance along with rebel fighters. He was taken to a triage tent next to the hospital, she said, and appeared pale and was bleeding heavily. He was pronounced dead some 15 minutes after his arrival, according to her account in The Washington Post.

Story: ‘Restrepo’ presents agonizing war closeup

"Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict," Hetherington's family said in a statement. "He will be forever missed."

Hetherington was best known as co-director of the documentary film "Restrepo" with Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm." The film tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.

Video: A look at award-winning documentary 'Restrepo'

Hetherington's coverage of American soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan also won him the World Press Photo of the Year Award, one of three World Press prizes he has received.

"He was an amazing talent and special human being," Sundance Institute spokeswoman Brooks Addicott said of Hetherington, whose "Restrepo" won Sundance's top documentary award. "We send our sincere condolences to the Hetherington family, to Sebastian Junger and Daniela Petrova, and to Tim's many admirers all over the world."

Hetherington was born in Liverpool and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries "Liberia: An Uncivil War" and "The Devil Came on Horseback." He also produced pieces for ABC News' "Nightline."

The White House in a prepared statement said it was "saddened" to learn of Hetherington's death.

"Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders, and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard," the White House said. "The Libyan government and all governments across the world must take steps to protect journalists doing this vital work."

Hondros had covered wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has been widely published around the world. In 2003, Hondros made a picture of a Liberian government soldier with an RPG launcher that became one of the most iconic documents of that civil war.

In 2006, Hondros was awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award by the Overseas Press Club for a series of images from Tal Afar, Iraq, in which U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire on an Iraqi family’s car. The next year, in a video interview with msnbc.com , Hondros said "I’m glad that those pictures exist, because it documents a circumstance that happens a lot there, and that people need to know about."

Hondros was born in New York City and moved to Fayetteville, N.C., as a child. He studied English literature at North Carolina State University and got a master's degree at Ohio University School of Visual Communication. He worked as a photographer for his hometown paper, the Fayetteville Observer and from there came to New York. He worked for the AP, freelanced and eventually became senior staff photographer at Getty.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters this week that the number of attacks on the media in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the year was "unprecedented."

"This hasn't happened before, not with this intensity and not with this frequency," he said of the attacks.

Dayem said 14 journalists have been killed worldwide so far this year, with 10 of those deaths in the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds of other attacks on the media in the region included detentions, destruction of equipment and death threats.

While the Committee to Protect Journalists said press freedom has improved in Egypt and Tunisia since protesters ousted the presidents of both countries this year, it described the situation as only graduating from "horrendous to bad."

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Acclaimed photographers killed in Libya

  1. Transcript of: Acclaimed photographers killed in Libya

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Now to Libya where the fighting shows no signs of stopping. On Wednesday, two award-winning photographers were killed as they chronicled the violence in one war-ravaged city. NBC 's Stephanie Gosk is in Tobruk with the latest on this. Stephanie , good morning to you.

    STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good morning, Matt. Well, Misrata is dangerous on multiple levels. There's the danger of being injured in the violence, but once injured, there's the problem of getting medical care. Most of the hospitals have been destroyed. There's little medicine, and the only safe way out of that city is a 20-hour boat ride. Misrata has become Libya 's and possibly the world's most dangerous city. A violent fight for control between rebel fighters and Gadhafi loyalists have turned the streets into battlefields. It is exactly the kind of place that photojournalist Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros have made a career out of capturing on camera. On Tuesday, Hetherington posted this on Twitter , "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata . Indiscriminate shelling by Gadhafi 's forces. No sign of NATO ." The next day, he and Hondros , along with another group of photographers, went to the city's front line.

    Mr. GUILLERMO CERVERA (Photojournalist): We were coming backwards because we were scared of the fight and just an RPG went where we were.

    GOSK: A rocket propelled grenade hit the group. Shrapnel from the explosion killed both British-born Hetherington and American Hondros . Two others were injured. Hetherington is best known for his work in Afghanistan , along with Sebastian Junger , he directed the 2010 documentary " Restrepo ," an up-close look at a combat platoon locked in a daily battle with the Taliban . The film won the Sundance Jury Prize and was nominated for an Academy Award . Its directors appeared on MSNBC 's " Morning Joe ."

    JOE SCARBOROUGH reporting: How do you keep filming when you're getting shot at by 20 Taliban members ?

    Mr. TIM HETHERINGTON: I don't know. As I've said, I've got the off switch on. I just kind of go for it. It's important to go to these places and bring back what we don't often see back there in the States .

    GOSK: Hondros did the same, working in war zones from Kosovo to Iraq . A North Carolina native who was engaged to be married, friends and colleagues say the 41-year-old was not afraid to get close to his subjects. His photos capture an intimacy few photographers achieve. The Committee to Protect Journalists says two other journalists have been killed and several more wounded while covering the uprising in Libya . Others have been detained by government forces, including two Americans, James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis , a freelance writer for USA Today and The Atlantic . A Libyan spokesman came out and said that the government is saddened by the deaths of these two journalists and that they're going to look into the incident. They added that government forces aren't deliberately targeting journalists, they're trying to target rebels. And also said that this is war and people are going to be killed on both sides. Matt :

Photos: Chris Hondros

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  1. Photojournalist Chris Hondros stands in front of a burning building while on assignment on April 18, 2011, in Misrata, Libya. Hondros was killed April 20 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck nearby. The following images were taken by Hondros in conflicts around the world. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata on April 20. Later that day, photographer Hondros was mortally wounded in the fighting. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward troops loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi on April 14 west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rebel fighters carefully move up a stairway in a building where they had trapped government loyalist troops during fighting along Tripoli Street in Misrata on April 20. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A rebel fighter closes the eyes of a comrade in the Ajdabiyah morgue after he was killed during clashes with government troops April 10 in Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A woman cheers in Cario's Tahrir Square after it is announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was giving up power on Feb. 11. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An anti-government protester is carried in Cario's Tahrir Square before a speech by President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 10. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A man holds an Egyptian flag as the sun sets on an anti-government protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 30. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Haitians crowd in for food aid in front of the National Palace on Jan. 25, 2010, a couple of weeks after a devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A United Nations peacekeeper from Uruguay carries a pregnant Haitian woman who lost consciousness in a massive crowd during rice distribution for earthquake victims in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 25, 2010. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A doctor in Port-au-Prince's central hospital checks a boy feared to have contracted malaria or meningitis on Jan. 23, 2010. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Hundreds of bodies are piled outside the morgue and main hospital on Jan. 15, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Former President Saddam Hussein watches from his seat during his trial before the Iraqi High Tribunal inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Feb. 14, 2006. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A woman displays her ink-stained finger outside a polling place after voting in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad on Jan. 30, 2005. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Samar Hassan screams after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division on Jan. 18, 2005, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The troops fired on the Hassan family car when it unwittingly approached them during a dusk patrol in the tense northern Iraqi town. Parents Hussein and Camila Hassan were killed instantly, and a son Rakan, 11, was seriously wounded in the abdomen. Rakan, who lost the use of his legs, was treated later in the U.S. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Two children are held by U.S. soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Stryker Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Wash., after their parents were killed. U.S. soldiers fired on their family's car after it failed to stop in Tal Afar, Iraq, despite warning shots, the military said, on Jan. 18, 2005. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Rakan Hassan, 12, looks out from the therapy room in Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on Jan. 11, 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts. Rakan's parents were shot to death and he was gravely wounded by U.S. soldiers in a shooting on Jan. 18, 2005, in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar. The incident was widely publicized and ultimately led to Rakan's treatment in Boston. Intensive physical therapy regimen allowed him to walk with assistance. But after his return to Iraq, he was killed by a bomb planted at his home in Mosul. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A Liberian militia commander loyal to the government exults after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces at a key strategic bridge July 20, 2003, in Monrovia. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A child soldier loyal to the Liberian government walks away after firing on rebel forces across a key bridge while another taunts them July 30, 2003, in Monrovia. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A government loyalist shouts out after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces on July 23, 2003, at a key bridge in Monrovia, Liberia. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Afghan schoolgirls seen through the window of a Humvee wave to a passing American convoy on June 26, 2010, in downtown Herat. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Spc. Christian Hoffman of Sanford, Fla., a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, listens for the heartbeat of a gravely wounded man after a civilian truck hit a buried mine on June 21, 2010, in Khushi Khona, Afghanistan, near the Turkmenistan border. The mine, intended for the U.S Army's 82nd Airborne Division, killed five men returning from a sheep-buying trip and seriously wounded three others who were treated by U.S. forces. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. New York City firefighters view the destroyed facade of the World Trade Center on Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the twin towers were destroyed when hit by two hijacked passenger jets. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Smoke pours from the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan on Sept. 12, 2001, from a vantage point in Hoboken, N.J. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The "Tribute in Light" in downtown Manhattan is seen from the Brooklyn waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge on Sept. 11, 2010. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A traffic light hangs over floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 7, 2005, in New Orleans. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Women grieve at the funeral of more than 40 ethnic Albanians who were massacred in Racak, Kosovo, by Serbian troops in February 1999. The massacre galvanized world sympathy to the plight of ethnic Albanians under Serbian rule in Kosovo and led to a 78-day NATO air campaign that eventually forced the Serbian military out of Kosovo. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Getty Images Photographer Chris Hondros
    Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (27) Photojournalists killed in Libyan fighting - Chris Hondros
  2. Image: O'Byrne takes cover from the dust being generated by an incoming Chinook helicopter delivering supplies to 'Restrepo' firebase. Battle Company, 2nd Battalion Airborne of the 503rd US Infantry are currently undergoing a 15 month deployment in the Ko
    Tim A. Hetherington / Panos Pictures
    Slideshow (6) Photojournalists killed in Libyan fighting - Tim Hetherington

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