Times confirms the death of its Baghdad driver in bomb blast

The Times last night confirmed that its missing driver “Yasser” – whose surname the paper will not release for security reasons – was killed in Monday’s bomb attacks in Baghdad.

The blasts targeted three hotels, including the Hamra Hotel which is home to a number of Western media organisations, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Times’ bureau.

Yasser had been outside the Hamra building when the bombs exploded, kiling him. The funeral the man who worked as both a driver and “fixer” for the Times’s Baghdad bureau took place in Najaf yesterday.

James Harding, editor of the Times, released a statement to Press Gazette last night paying tribute:

“Yasser was a brave colleague and a generous friend to The Times. He was a respected and much-loved member of The Times’ Baghdad bureau, where he worked with our journalists as a driver for seven years.

“Yasser always showed courage, patience, good humour and a deep commitment to the paper’s coverage of Iraq.

“We are indebted to him for his sacrifice and his service – which has allowed us to report on so much of the war and its aftermath – and we offer our deepest condolences to his family. He will be greatly missed.”

Today Times Middle East correspondent, James Hider, paid tribute to the Iraqi national who he considered his “friend and heroic colleague”:

“Yasser was The Times’s driver for the past seven years, since the fall of the regime that he had hated so much.

“He joined the newspaper pretty much the same week I did, and together we worked through the bloodiest periods of the war.

“Yasser – whose surname I cannot put in print, even now, because of the danger to his brother, who also works as a Times driver – was one of the thousands of Iraqis who have made the media coverage of the war possible: uncredited, unsung heroes of a war most people would rather forget.

“He had survived some terrifying episodes, from being ‘ethnically cleansed’with his family by Sunni insurgents from their home in 2006, when they moved into our hotel but did not stop working, to blocking the road with his car as a vehicle full of armed kidnappers tried to abduct a Times reporter one evening near the Tigris river.

“He saved my life and the lives of colleagues at the risk of his own, only to step out of The Times office at exactly the wrong moment on Monday, the moment when a suicide car bomber fought his way into the compound and blew himself up.”

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