Photographer Anton Hammerl 'killed by Libyan troops'

Handout picture of Anton Hammerl Anton Hammerl was on the frontline near Brega when he was killed

A UK-based photographer was shot dead by Libyan forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi six weeks ago, his family say.

South African-born Anton Hammerl was killed in an "extremely remote location" in the Libyan desert on 5 April, the family said in a statement.

Three foreign journalists, released earlier this week, said they were with him at the time he was killed.

The family described as "intolerably cruel" the weeks of assurances from Libyan officials that he was alive.

"On 5 April, Anton was shot by Gaddafi's forces in an extremely remote location in the Libyan desert," the statement from the family said.

"According to eyewitnesses, his injuries were such that he could not have survived without medical attention.

"Words are simply not enough to describe the unbelievable trauma the Hammerl family is going through."

Split second

Two American journalists, James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis, Spanish photographer Manu Brabo and a Briton named as Nigel Chandler were released on Wednesday.

From left, Nigel Chandler, Manu Brabo, James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis, Tripoli, 17 May (L-R) Chandler, Brabo, Foley and Gillis arrive at Tripoli's Rixos Hotel

They had been detained on suspicion of illegally entering the country. Ms Morgana Gillis said this week the four had been given a one-year suspended sentence.

Mr Foley, a reporter for GlobalPost, told the online-based international news agency, that he, Mr Hammerl, Ms Gillis and Mr Brabo had gone to report on fighting from the front line near the eastern oil town of Brega on 5 April.

They found themselves facing two armoured Libyan military trucks carrying pro-Gaddafi troops who were firing AK-47s over their heads.

"It all happened in a split second," he was quoted by GlobalPost as saying. "We thought we were in the crossfire. But eventually, we realised they were shooting at us. You could see and hear the bullets hitting the ground near us."

Mr Foley said all four journalists dived to the ground, but Mr Hammerl had been hit and fatally wounded.

The Libyan government had said only on Tuesday that Mr Hammerl - a South African with Austrian parents who lived with his wife in Surbiton, south-west London - would be freed along with the others.

"From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton," Mr Hammerl's family said.

"It is intolerably cruel that Gaddafi loyalists have known Anton's fate all along and chose to cover it up."

The South African government also says it was repeatedly misled about his fate.

"We kept getting reassured at the highest level that he was alive until his colleagues were released and shared the information," International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters on Friday.

"We are disappointed that [we] were not informed by Libyan authorities, but from the journalists who were with him."

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