NPR is mourning veteran photojournalist David Gilkey, who has become the first American journalist outside the military to be killed in almost 15 years of US involvement in Afghanistan. Gilkey, 50, was killed alongside 38-year-old Afghan interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna when their vehicle was hit by shellfire as they traveled in an Afghan army convoy in Helmand province on Sunday afternoon, the New York Times reports. Two other members of the NPR team, who were embedded with Afghan special forces on a monthlong assignment, were unharmed in what authorities say was a Taliban ambush. This is the first time an NPR journalist has been killed on assignment, CNN reports. James P. Hunter, a 25-year-old staff sergeant and journalist with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, was killed in an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2010.
Gilkey, who had won numerous awards and was considered one of the world's best photojournalists, "chronicled pain and beauty in war and conflict," writes Eyder Peralta at NPR. Gilkey had extensive experience in Afghanistan and had also reported from South Africa, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, Haiti, and Iraq, where he was embedded with the first US troops to invade. "David was one of the most intense journalists I've ever met," says Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, which employed Gilkey from 1996 to 2007. "He was committed to telling human stories—even when it meant putting his own life in harm's way. And, he was just a good guy." (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)