NEW YORK (AP) — New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who strove to capture untold stories in Middle East conflicts from Libya to Iraq, died Thursday in eastern Syria after slipping into the country to report on the uprising against its president.
Shadid, shot in the West Bank in 2002 and kidnapped for six days in Libya last year, apparently died of an asthma attack, the Times said. Times photographer Tyler Hicks was with him and carried his body to Turkey, the newspaper said.
“Anthony was one of our generation’s finest reporters,” Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger said in a statement. “He was also an exceptionally kind and generous human being. He brought to his readers an up-close look at the globe’s many war-torn regions, often at great personal risk. We were fortunate to have Anthony as a colleague, and we mourn his death.”
Shadid’s father, Buddy Shadid, told The Associated Press on Thursday his son had asthma all his life and had medication with him.
“(But) he was walking to the border because it was too dangerous to ride in the car,” the father said. “He was walking behind some horses — he’s more allergic to those than anything else — and he had an asthma attack.”
The Times reported that Shadid and Hicks recently were helped by smugglers through the border area in Turkey adjoining Syria’s Idlib Province and were met by guides on horseback.
Hicks told the newspaper that Shadid suffered one bout of asthma the first night, followed by a more severe attack a week later on the way out.
“I stood next to him and asked if he was OK, and then he collapsed,” Hicks told the Times.
Hicks said that Shadid was not conscious and that his breathing was “very faint” and “very shallow.” He said that after a few minutes he could see that Shadid “was no longer breathing.”
Shadid, a 43-year-old American of Lebanese descent, had a wife, Nada Bakri, and a son and a daughter. He had worked previously for the AP, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. He won Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting in 2004, when he was with the Post, and in 2010, when with the Times, for his Iraq coverage.
In 2004, the Pulitzer Board praised “his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended.”
Shadid was a native of Oklahoma City and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the AP in Milwaukee in 1990, worked on the International Desk in New York and served as the AP’s news editor in Los Angeles. He was transferred to Cairo in 1995, covering stories in several countries.
AP Senior Managing Editor John Daniszewski, who worked with Shadid in Baghdad during the U.S. invasion in 2003, called him “a brilliant colleague who stood out both for his elegant writing and for his deep and nuanced understanding of the region.”
“He was calm under fire and quietly daring, the most admired of his generation of foreign correspondents,” Daniszewski said.
Shadid had been reporting in Syria for a week, gathering information on the resistance to the Syrian government and calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, the Times said. The exact circumstances and location of his death were unclear, it said.
Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson sent a note to the newsroom Thursday evening, relaying the news of Shadid’s death and remembering him.
“Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces,” she wrote.
Shadid, long known for covering wars and other conflicts in the Middle East, was among four reporters detained for six days by Libyan forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi last March.
Speaking to an audience in Oklahoma City about a month after his release, he said he had a conversation with his father the night before he was detained.
“Maybe a little bit arrogantly, perhaps with a little bit of conceit, I said, ‘It’s OK, Dad. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been in this situation before,'” Shadid told the crowd of several dozen people. “I guess on some level I felt that if I wasn’t there to tell the story, the story wouldn’t be told.”
When Shadid’s wife was asked at the time whether she worried about him returning to writing about conflicts, she said as a journalist she understood that he might need to.
“At the end of the day, he’s my husband, and the thought of going through life without him and raising our children alone is terrible,” she said afterward.
Shadid’s father, who lives in Oklahoma City, said a colleague tried to revive his son after he was stricken Thursday but couldn’t.
“They were in an isolated place. There was no doctor around,” Buddy Shadid said. “It took a couple of hours to get him to a hospital in Turkey.”