Tim Hetherington Was Killed in a Notoriously Perilous Zone

The area where the Oscar-winning “Restrepo” director and photographer were killed Wednesday had already claimed the lives to two other journalists, while scores of others had been hurt or apprehended there

The conflict in Libya in which Oscar-nominated "Restrepo" director Tim Hetherington and photographer Chris Hondros were killed on Wednesday is "devastatingly difficult" for journalists to cover, according to the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists, which has documented four deaths and 80 attacks on reporters since the battles between rebel forces and Moammar Qaddafi's military began in February.  

According to the CPJ, casualties in Libya include four deaths — Hetherington, Hondros, Al-Hurra TV founder Mohammed al-Nabbous and Al Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber — along with "numerous injuries, 49 detentions, 11 assaults, two attacks on news facilities, the jamming of two international television transmissions, at least four instances of obstruction, the expulsion of two international journalists," among other disruptions.

Tim HetheringtonThe CPJ says that at least 18 journalists are currently missing or detained by security forces.

Also read: Tim Hetherington: 'He Wasn't In It for the Adrenaline Rush'

While information about the exact circumstances of Hetherington's death remains sketchy, the city of Misrata, in which he died, has been the site of some of Libya's fiercest battles in recent weeks.

The port city is reportedly cut off from the rest of the country by Qaddafi's military forces and besieged by those forces, with the sea providing the only way in and out for rebels and civilians. 

The Christian Science Monitor has described Qaddafi's attacks on the city as "an ongoing slaughter," saying that pro-government forces have killed hundreds of civilians and dozens of children with the indiscriminate use of bombs on homes in the port city.

Wondered the CSM editorial board, "Will Misrata become Obama's Rwanda, a humanitarian stain on his presidential legacy?"

Hetherington, Hondros, Guy Martin and Michael Brown came to Misrata from the rebel capital of Benghazi and had placed themselves with the rebels on Tripoli Street, which the New York Times called "one of the city's main battle grounds" and "an extended boulevard of ruins."

Reporting on the conflict, wrote the Times, "has proved to be especially treacherous for journalists, who have been subjected to airstrikes, and artillery, rocket, rifle and machine-gun fire, and they have faced the risk of arrest, beatings and detention from the pro-Qaddafi forces."

Making matters even more difficult: customs officials in Egypt often block journalists from bringing flak jackets, helmets and other protective gear into Libya.

Qaddafi's forces attacked the rebels on Wednesday afternoon, and the four photographers were struck by what Hetherington's family said was an RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade. (Other reports say it was a mortar round.) The men were rushed to a triage center at the Hikma hospital, with Hetherington bleeding profusely from the leg and Hondros suffering from a massive brain injury.

One rebel told the Washington Post that he had told the four men not to stay together, because "they hit groups."

After about 15 minutes at the triage center, said photojournalist Andre Liohn, Hetherington was pronounced dead. Hondros died later of his injuries.

With intervention from Human Rights Watch, the two men's bodies were put aboard the humanitarian aid vessel the Ionian Spirit, which is run by the International Organization for Migration and used to evacuate foreign workers.

Hetherington and Hondros had arrived in Misrata on the same ship.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)