Anyone who was paying attention on Twitter had a harrowing sense of what it was like to be there – and what it is like to be a combat journalist arriving on scene without weapons or any plan other than to make sure the world knows what is really happening.
Two of the combat journalists who were on the scene and live tweeting the hotel siege while under heavy fire happen to be good friends of mine, and both have been featured in the news this past week for this event.
I thought I would share a little bit about what it is they do with SOFREP readers, and they’ve graciously agreed. For personal security reasons, we chose to redact some answers. Hope you’ll understand, neither of these gentlemen are beloved by terrorists.
SOFREP: What was the first combat/attack event you covered up close?
MK: It was back in 2011. A suicide bombing that killed 7 members of one family. Followed by another one a month later where I was stuck in the gunfight again.
AM: The first event that I covered was Serena hotel attack, which a group of Taliban stormed into a shopping center near the Serena hotel and targeting the hotel and other government facilities, I still remember that day when police told us to go back due to our safety and a suicide bomber with ambulance detonated him self right in front us and killed people around me.
SOFREP: How are you alerted to an event? Do police/military alert you or your employer?
MK: None of these. I have ground sources who notify me. Also, sometimes from colleagues.
AM: We usually alert through media and social network (twitter) or by friends who are near to the event.
SOFREP: What camera equipment do you carry – do you have a bag or a kit with supplies you keep ready for events and can you share what is in it? (camera, batteries, water bottles, medical kit, etc)
MK: I have a 5.11 tactical survival bag that I modified it according to my own needs. It includes pen/notepad, chargers for mobiles, spare water bottles, full pack of medicine, full first aid pack, full typical treatment pack (pills & injections), chem lights, few protein packs, and a couple of spare cigarette packs.
AM: I usually go to the scene with a cameraman, and yes we have a first aid medical kit in the car with.
SOFREP: Do you carry a weapon?
AM: No I don’t carry weapon.
SOFREP: How cooperative are the police and military with you when you are on a scene?
MK: At times they are cooperative, but sometimes when they’re very much pressurized already, they are not too cooperative which we totally understand it under such stiff situation for them.
AM: Police and military always try to keep us as far as possible from the scene/event but we always to go as close as possible to report what exactly going on in every minutes.
SOFREP: In Kabul at the hotel attack, how many hours were you there?
MK: I was there for around 6 hours. 4 of which I was under the astray bullets’ line.
AM: In Kabul attack I went to the scene at 6am in the morning till 1300 local almost 7 hours. the main road to the hotel was closed to journalist and civilians i climbed through the hills to reach myself as close as possible to the scene.
SOFREP: How much access are you given once an operation ends – are you able to document and photograph as you like or do they restrict you?
MK: In majority of cases where the sensitive intelligence materials are removed, we are given access to photograph the scene
SOFREP: What is the most dangerous event you have covered – dangerous to your own safety?
MK: The U.S. Embassy attack was the most risky coverage ever. There was basically no point to take cover. RPGs and bullets were flying hundreds of meters away on reporters on so many points.
AM: The most dangerous event I cover was this hotel attack, the bullets were flying over our heads, and leaves of the trees were falling down, the sound of heavy rockets and blasts really reminded me the civil war during Mujahidin, I felt death very closely.
SOFREP: Do you get any harassment or threats from Taliban, etc. for your work?
MK: I do. Most recent was in late 2011, where I was warned for working with the AFP, or as Taliban described it, “spying for the French infidels.”
MK added: A typical mood while covering these attacks is when the combat gets fierce and we’re all silent concentrating on the coverage or keeping safe from the bullets, there is always a fun mood at those moments. One would crack a very nasty joke and cheer up everyone. I make sure to have cigarettes every time because that’s the only mind calming tool for me now. At during attacks, there is an unusual unity between us when smoking cigarettes together.
SOFREP: You’ve embedded with troops – can you disclose which you are able to embed with and how that happened?
MK: With the U.S. & British for short time.