Last updated: 17 February, 2012

NY Times reporter Anthony Shadid dies in Syria

New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose richly crafted dispatches surveyed two decades of Middle East turmoil, has died in Syria of an asthma attack.

Shadid, 43, had entered the country clandestinely to report on Syria’s increasingly bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy revolt, and his sudden death drew warm tributes from the political and media spheres.

Times photographer Tyler Hicks, who was on assignment with Shadid, said they were being led by guides using horses to take them out of Syria, when exposure to the horses apparently triggered a severe asthma attack.

Shadid took medication but it did not prevent him from collapsing Thursday. Hicks tried unsuccessfully to revive Shadid with cardiopulmonary resuscitation after he stopped breathing, then carried his body over the border to Turkey, the Times said.

“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,” the paper’s executive editor, Jill Abramson, wrote in an email to Times staff.

Shadid won two Pulitzer Prizes — US journalism’s highest honor — in 2004 and 2010 for his coverage in the Washington Post of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the war’s chaotic aftermath.

“Anthony had the ability to see beneath the surface of events, to hear and observe and understand things that eluded almost everyone else around him,” said Philip Bennett, the Post’s former managing editor.

“He changed the way we saw Iraq, Egypt, Syria over the last, crucial decade. There is no one to replace him,” Bennett said.

An American of Lebanese descent who spoke fluent Arabic, Shadid documented the war through wrenching stories of ordinary Iraqis in “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War,” published in 2005.

More recently, he had reported on the revolts sweeping the Arab world from Egypt, Syria and Libya — where he and other Times reporters were detained and abused by forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi.

“He brought to his readers an up-close look at the globe’s many war-torn regions, often at great personal risk,” Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger said in a statement.

White House press spokesman Jay Carney also paid tribute to Shadid.

“He took extraordinary risks to give voice to the popular movements in the Arab world. Because of the risk he took, leaders around the world were made aware” of the Arab uprisings, Carney told reporters.

Shadid began his career in 1990 at the Associated Press in Milwaukee, New York and Los Angeles before transferring to Cairo where he was based from 1995-1999. He later joined the Boston Globe and then the Washington Post.

He is survived by a wife, fellow New York Times journalist Nada Bakri, and two children.

In his final article for the Times, Shadid wrote about the chaotic situation in Libya, where rival militias have replaced Kadhafi, who was overthrown and killed by rebels last year.

“It ran long, at more than 1,600 words, which was typical of Mr. Shadid’s work. It was splashed on the front page of the newspaper and the home page of the website,, which was also typical,” the newspaper said.

In its obituary, the Times published an excerpt from a new book by Shadid, “House of Stone,” to be published next month, in which he described the aftermath of Israel’s air assaults on south Lebanon during the 2006 war.

“Some suffering cannot be covered in words,” he wrote. “This had become my daily fare as reporter in the Middle East documenting war, its survivors and fatalities, and the many who seem a little of both.

“In the Lebanese town of Qana, where Israeli bombs caught their victims in the midst of a morning’s work, we saw the dead standing, sitting, looking around.

“The village, its voices and stories, plates and bowls, letters and words, its history, had been obliterated in a few extended moments that splintered a quiet morning.”