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Northern Ireland journalist in Helmand blast flown back to UK

The girlfriend of a Northern Ireland photographer seriously injured in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan has travelled to see him in hospital after he was flown home from the war zone.

Philip Coburn (43), originally from Larne, suffered serious leg injuries after the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an improvised explosive device.

His colleague, Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer, was killed in the attack.

Mr Hamer’s body was flown back to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire yesterday, along with the first soldier to die in the conflict this year, 19-year-old Private Robert Hayes.

Mr Coburn arrived back on a separate medical flight for treatment at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital.

Last night a spokesperson for the hospital said Mr Coburn was in a “stable” condition.

His girlfriend Alison Roberts, who is four months pregnant, and their young son Joe, yesterday travelled from London to Birmingham to visit him.

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Press Photographers' Association Alan Lewis met Philip and Rupert recently and said everyone’s thoughts were with the two families.

“Some of our members worked with Philip when he was starting out in the 1980s,” he said.

“People like Phil and Rupert who go out there embedded, and work on the frontline of war zones, are brave guys, and they are out doing jobs that most people wouldn’t care to do.

“There is a rivalry amongst photographers but there is also a lot of respect, and everyone’s thoughts are with both Philip and Rupert’s family at this time.”

Mr Hamer, who was 39, and Mr Coburn were caught up in an explosion on Saturday while embedded with the US Marines.

The journalists had flown to the region on New Year's Eve for a month-long assignment. As a non-military person, Mr Hamer did not receive the same ceremony at Lyneham given to returning soldiers, while his family were not at the base, the Ministry of Defence said.

Tributes have flooded in for Mr Hamer, who died of his wounds at the scene north west of Nawa in Helmand province.

Belfast Telegraph