From the late 1990s, Adlan Khasanov was the eyes and ears of Reuters in Chechnya, one of the world’s most dangerous places.
He died in an explosion in the Chechen capital, Grozny, which killed six other people including the Chechen president.
The bomb’s shock waves knocked Khasanov over onto the concrete ground, causing fatal head injuries. Witnesses said only seconds earlier another photographer who had been standing in front of Adlan had knelt down to take a picture.
No other journalists were seriously hurt in the blast, which the Russian government blamed on separatist rebels.
Adlan’s family were at the time still coming to terms with the death of his mother three months earlier and his father just two weeks previously.
Adlan, 33, was the youngest of seven children, born in a region of the Caucasus where violence and poverty have been part of life for generations. After studying journalism in Chechnya, he first worked with Reuters as a freelance photographer covering the country. Later he helped as a fixer for Reuters television and would deliver videotapes out of the country.
It was in the second Chechen war, which started in late 1999, that he began to make an impact.
“He learned very fast,” said Nino Ivanishvili, who heads Reuters’ TV operations in the Caucasus region. The two of them would go through each frame back in the Tbilisi office, Nino giving a critique, Adlan listening.
One day he came back with some footage of US military trainers who had just arrived in Georgia as part of the USled war on terror. “I told him I had nothing to say,” said Nino. “It was so good, it didn’t really need editing. He was so happy. He ran out of the office and came back with flowers for me.”
Adlan, recognised easily across a crowded newsroom by his thick black hair and raffish good looks, worked throughout the former Soviet Union.
After 11 September, he worked in Tajikistan on the border with Afghanistan where international forces were ousting the Taliban government. He moved on to Uzbekistan where the US was setting up an air base for its Afghan operations.
“He was completely irrepressible, an amazing, life-enhancing companion who broke hearts wherever he went and was simply fun with a capital F,” said Seb Alison, Reuters’ senior correspondent for Central Asia at the time.
Condolences have flooded in from fellow professionals and those who appreciated Adlan’s role in showing the horrors and misery of Chechnya.
“Many of us came to know and love Adlan as one of the familiar and welcoming faces we encountered during our trips to the North Caucasus,” wrote BBC News’s Moscow bureau editor, Chris Booth.
“Because of the restrictions imposed on covering events in Chechnya, news organisations such as the BBC have come to rely greatly upon the work carried out by a few brave and committed individuals, of whom Adlan was a bright example.”
Grigory Dukor, Reuters’ chief photographer for the CIS, said: “I heard him complaining about life only twice: first – and what really made him unhappy – about the war in Chechnya and what it brought to his homeland; and second when he fell off the photographers’ stand during a fashion show in Moscow while giving way to somebody, ending up with partly broken equipment and a bleeding head.
By the way, the pictures were nice. What an irreplaceable loss.”