Covering the world each week would be impossible without the translators, drivers, facilitators and guides whose local knowledge and companionship are indispensable to foreign correspondents working in dangerous places. OMAR HASHIM KAMAL was one such treasure. Omar joined TIME's Baghdad bureau as a translator last April and immediately became one of the magazine's most vital assets, a man beloved by those of us who worked with him as much for his relentless conviviality as for his lightly worn erudition. On the morning of March 24, Omar, 48, was shot four times by unidentified assailants as he drove to work. He died later in the company of his family and members of TIME's staff, leaving behind his wife and their 4-year-old son. His death underscored the dangers faced by Iraqi employees of news organizations. At least six others have been killed in the line of duty in the past month.
Omar's gentility was an antidote to such violence. A trained computer engineer, he graduated with honors from Teesside University in England and served in a radar unit of the Iraqi army for six years before becoming a successful businessman. In his second career, as a translator for TIME, Omar chased stories as fearlessly as any seasoned journalist, helping our reporters expose the crimes of Saddam Hussein's regime and chronicle the trials of the occupation. He was at his most delighted guiding the uninitiated through Baghdad's old city, shopping for books and insisting that we stop to sip coffee and talk.
--By Romesh Ratnesar