South African photographer Anton Hammerl was shot in the Libyan desert and is believed to have died from his injuries, the Hammerl family said on Friday.
A statement released by the family on Facebook said that they had been informed on Thursday night that Hammerl had been shot on April 5.
“On 5 April 2011 Anton was shot by [Muammar] Gadaffi’s forces in an extremely remote location in the Libyan desert. 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,” the statement read.
“From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton. It is intolerably cruel that Gadaffi loyalists have known Anton’s fate all along and chose to cover it up.”
Hammerl, who used to work for the Star newspaper in Johannesburg, was initially reported to have been captured by militia loyal to Gaddafi near the town of Brega on April 5.
The South African Press Association has learned that Hammerl’s wife Penny Sukraj was told by United States journalists Clare Morgana Gillis and James Foley of the shooting.
They were with Hammerl when they came under fire in the Libyan desert near Brega.
Hammerl was apparently shot in the stomach, according to family friend Bronwyn Friedlander.
‘Why did it take so long to confirm his death?’
Friedlander said according to Gillis and Foley, Hammerl had cried “help”.
She said that James had asked if he was OK, and Hammerl said he had been injured. The group then came under more fire.
“They called out again, and they called out a third time there was no response,” he said.
Gillis and Foley were then taken captive by Gadaffi loyalists.
Friedlander said it was believed Hammerl’s injuries were such that there was no hope of his survival without immediate medical attention.
She said assurances of Hammerl’s capture in Libya apparently given to the South African and Austrian governments “incredibly cruel”.
National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee said Hammerl’s death came as a shock.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with Anton’s family, friends and colleagues. We are told he was shot on April 5. Why did it take so long to confirm his death?
“Anton will always be remembered as an outstanding photographer and a good human being. The news is devastating.
“To the Hammerl family, please accept the condolences of the entire media fraternity.”
Last week the Star quoted International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as saying the South African government had proof that he was alive.
However on Wednesday International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela denied the report, saying; “That issue of the minister’s quote was not captured correctly.”
Monyela could not be immediately reached for comment following news of Hammerl’s death.
Last month well known photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed after coming under fire in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata. – Sapa