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September 11, 2009

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UK troops draw flak for Afghan rescue raid

A GROUP of Afghan journalists blamed international forces yesterday for the death of a kidnapped colleague during the British commando rescue of a New York Times reporter and accused them of having a "double standard" for Western and Afghan lives.

The charge came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said troops had carried out the raid on Wednesday in a bid to recover both British-Irish reporter Stephen Farrell and Afghan translator and reporter Sultan Munadi and that the mission was authorized as the "best chance of protecting life."

The newly formed Media Club of Afghanistan - set up by Afghan reporters who work with international news outlets - also condemned the Taliban for abducting both journalists last week in northern Afghanistan as they investigated reports of civilian deaths in a German-ordered air strike.

More than 50 Afghan reporters, wearing cameras and carrying notebooks, laid flowers yesterday at the Kabul cemetery grave of Munadi, 34, who died in gunfire as British commandos launched the rescue operation in northern Kunduz Province. Farrell survived and was taken away in a helicopter. One British commando was also killed in the raid.

In a statement, the journalists' group said it held international forces responsible for launching a military operation without exhausting nonviolent channels. It also said it was "inhumane" for the British forces to rescue Farrell and retrieve the body of the slain commando while leaving behind Munadi's body.

The body was retrieved on Wednesday afternoon following negotiations with local elders, said Mohammad Omar, the Kunduz provincial governor. Munadi's family buried him in the capital late on Wednesday.

A British defense official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, insisted Munadi wasn't treated any differently from Farrell in the commando raid. "This was not an operation to save one individual, it was an operation to save hostages," the official said.


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