MISRATA, Libya – Two Western photojournalists including an Oscar-nominated film director were killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Misrata while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces. Two others working alongside them were wounded.
British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the documentary "Restrepo" about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city 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."
"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."
Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, was also killed.
"He has an intimacy in his work," said Swayne Hall, a longtime friend who works as a photo editor with The Associated Press. "Some people will use a long lens so they don't have to get up close. But Chris will get up close, he's just not afraid to be with whatever he's photographing."
The two other photographers — Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown — were treated for shrapnel wounds, doctors said.
The circumstances of the incident were unclear. The statement from Hetherington's family said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Gadhafi's forces have intensified their assault on Libya's third-largest city, firing tank shells and rockets into residential areas, according to witnesses and human rights groups. NATO commanders have admitted their airpower is limited in being able to protect civilians in a city — the core mission of the international air campaign.
Hetherington, 40, was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2010 documentary film "Restrepo." The film was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm."
"He was an amazing talent and special human being," Sundance Institute spokeswoman Brooks Addicott said in a statement. "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."
"Restrepo" 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. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.
"We're at war," Hetherington said in an interview with the AP before the Oscars. "We wanted to bring the war into people's living room and put it into the movie theaters, and get people to connect with it. It's not necessarily about moral outrage. It's about trying to understand that we're at war and try to understand the emotional terrain of what being at war means."
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."
Hetherington's photos appeared in Vanity Fair magazine, where he worked as a contributing photographer. He won the World Press Photo of the Year award for his coverage of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, and released "Infidel," a book of photos capturing the lives of the 173rd Airborne Combat Team, in 2010.
Hondros, 41, had covered conflict zones since the late 1990s including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and his work has appeared in major magazines and newspapers around the world. His awards include World Press Photo honors and the Robert Capa Gold Medal, one of the highest prizes in war photography.
One front page New York Times photo from 2007 showed a Humvee patrol in Iraq from a different angle: The ruddy hands of an Iraqi interpreter and a pair of muddied boots belonging to a gunner.
Two other journalists have been killed in the Libyan conflict, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. An unknown gunman killed Mohammed al-Nabbous, founder of the online Libya Al-Hurra TV, in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on March 19. Cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber was shot when his Al-Jazeera crew was ambushed near Benghazi on March 13.