SA photographer badly wounded in Afghanistan

2010-10-23 10:42

Kabul, Afghanistan – South African photographer Joao Silva was seriously wounded when he stepped on a mine while covering the war in southern Afghanistan for the New York Times today.

Silva’s photo journalism is noted for the work he did as part of the Bang Bang Club, a league of photographers renowned for their daring images of the violence that consumed South Africa’s townships between 1990 to 1994. Other prominant members included Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich and Ken Oosterbroek.

The injured Silva had been evacuated to the main US military base in southern Kandahar after being wounded in the legs in the volatile Arghandab region of the province.

“A group of minesweepers and bomb-sniffing dogs had already moved over the area several steps ahead of Mr Silva when the bomb went off,” the report on the newspaper’s website said.

Mines – or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as they are called in Afghanistan – are the main weapon used by the Taliban in their war against the Kabul government, now in its 10th year.

They are cheap and easy to make but difficult to detect, and can be detonated by pressure or by remote control.

They have killed many of the almost 600 foreign troops to have died in the war so far this year, and cause devastating injuries to those who survive.

The newspaper said that Silva was being treated at the Kandahar Airfield.

It described him as an award-winning photographer who had also covered wars in Iraq, southern Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East.

“Joao is the state-of-the-art war photographer, fearless but careful, with an amazing eye,” Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, said.

“We’re all waiting anxiously and praying for his quick recovery,” the report quoted him as saying.

According to Silva’s website, he was born in Lisbon and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He was embedded with a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, which has been involved for several weeks in a major operation in Kandahar to clear insurgents from Arghandab and the surrounding area.

A spokesperson for the Kandahar governor said that Silva had been embedded with veteran reporter Carlotta Gall.

She wrote this week from Arghandab, a district of Kandahar, that American and Afghan forces had been “routing” the Taliban in much of the province.

Kandahar is the hub of the Taliban-led insurgency and one of the most dangerous places in the country.

Many of its districts are laced with IEDs as the Taliban deploy the cheap and easily made bombs to counter an offensive by US-led forces aimed at ending the insurgency.

The US-led forces allow journalists to “embed” with frontline units as one of the few ways in which they gain access to the machinations of the war.

Embedded reporters often accompany military patrols, facing the same risks though they are unarmed and largely lack military training.

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