When the news came this week that four journalists, including The Atlantic‘s Clare Morgana Gillis, were finally released from Libya after six weeks, the one name that remained unaccounted for was freelance photographer Anton Lazarus Hammerl.
Because the other reporters detained around the same time as he were safe, his family retained hope that he, too, would be coming back. But as The Atlantic is now reporting, the family received word that he was in fact shot and killed by government troops on April 5th. Only when his fellow journalists were released could they break the news.
“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,” James Foley, one of the detained journalists, told GlobalPost. The four journalists were forced to flee on foot because the rebel forces had driven off without them. They were running from troops loyal to Gaddafi when Hammerl was shot in the abdomen and fell.
Max Fisher at The Atlantic writes:
It is currently unclear why the Libyan government never reported Hammerl’s death. Several NGOs and foreign governments made repeated requests for information about Hammerl, and were at times told by senior Libyan officials that Hammerl was alive and would be released.
But the most tragic statement comes from Hammerl’s family, who had thought these many weeks that he was alive.
“From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton,” read the Facebook statement attributed to the Hammerl family. “It is intolerably cruel that Gaddafi loyalists have known Anton’s fate all along and chose to cover it up.”