BOSTON - Michael Kelly, a former editor in chief of The Atlantic Monthly, was killed along with an American soldier in an accident involving their Humvee military vehicle in Iraq, magazine staff and U.S. officials said on Friday.
A staunch advocate of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, Kelly, 46, was both the first American journalist and the first "embedded" journalist to die in the 2-week-old conflict.
The Atlantic Monthly said Kelly, who was embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, died on Thursday night while on assignment for the magazine. He also penned a weekly syndicated column for The Washington Post.
"Some people knew Michael as one of this country's most gifted writers and editors. Many knew him as a fiery columnist. I knew him as an honest, funny, caring and even gentle human being," John Fox Sullivan, president and group publisher of Atlantic Media, said in a statement.
In an online obituary on Friday, The Post called Kelly a "caustic conservative who was merciless in his criticism of Bill Clinton and Al Gore." A strong supporter of President George W. Bush's plan to oust the Iraqi president, Kelly chastised those who opposed the war.
"To march against the war is not to give peace a chance. It is to give tyranny a chance. It is to give the Iraqi nuke a chance. It is to give the next terrorist mass murder a chance. It is to march for the furtherance of evil instead of the vanquishing of evil," he wrote in a Feb. 19 column.
U.S. defense officials said the circumstances and cause of the accident were still under investigation, and they withheld the identity of the other person killed in the accident pending notification of family members.
Pentagon chief spokeswoman Victoria Clarke lauded Kelly, noting that several journalists have died "trying to tell the very important story" of the U.S.- and British-led war.
"Mike was just a phenomenal journalist, with an enthusiasm for his work that was surpassed only by his passion for his family," Clarke said during a Pentagon briefing.
Kelly, who was until recently editor in chief at The Atlantic Monthly, covered the 1991 Gulf War as a freelance correspondent for The New Republic, GQ, and The Boston Globe.
He won high praise for his reporting on how U.S. funds helped pay to rebuild lavish palaces of Kuwaiti leaders after the conflict. Based on his experiences in Iraq, he wrote the book "Martyrs' Day," which won the PEN-Martha Albrand award.
Kelly was the fourth journalist killed in action in the war. That is equal to the number of journalists killed in the Gulf War 12 years ago. Two additional journalists are still missing in Iraq.
BBC cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed by a land mine as he climbed out of a car in the northern town of Kifri this week. The first victim, Australian cameraman Paul Moran, was killed in the north last month by a car bomb Kurdish officials blamed on the militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam.
Terry Lloyd, a reporter with Britain's Independent Television News, was killed after coming under fire on the way to Basra in the south. Two of his crew are still missing.
Britain's Channel 4 TV reporter Gaby Rado was found dead at an Iraqi hotel, but his employers said the death appeared to be unconnected to combat.
Some 600 journalists are embedded with U.S. and British forces.
Prior to his arrival at The Atlantic Monthly, Kelly was the editor of National Journal from 1998 to 2000 and of The New Republic from 1996 to 1997. Kelly is survived by his wife, Madelyn, and two sons.