AP’s Anthony Mitchell on plane that crashed

It just not bloody fair. Earlier tonight, I found out that Anthony Mitchell, a reporter for the AP based in Nairobi and one of the most interesting and funny guys I’ve met in a long time, was on a plane that crashed in Cameroon on Saturday. In all, the Kenyan Airways flight was carrying 114 people. It doesn’t look good, and my heart is heavy tonight. As the report says:

Among the passengers of the Boeing 737-800 was a Nairobi-based Associated Press correspondent, Anthony Mitchell, one of five Britons on a passenger list released by the airline. Mitchell had been on assignment in the region.

Most of the passengers were apparently en route to Nairobi to transfer to other flights.

I met Anthony, who is 39, in March in Djibouti, when we both were onboard the FGS Bremen, a German frigate, for a story on maritime security operations in the area. Anthony was full of funny, self-deprecating stories about himself and Africa, stories that contained no small amount of hard-won wisdom, too. He talked about the clans of Somalia, the US military’s actions in the Horn of Africa and constantly took the piss out of our military escort in the most good-natured way possible. (Anthony’s from London while LCDR “Grassy” Meadows of the Royal Navy is from the north of England.)

I didn’t know him long, but in the few days I knew him, he was a reporter’s reporter, working constantly, cell phone seemingly glued to his head as he chased down reports of the kidnapped Britons in Ethiopia and set up an interview with the president of Djibouti.

He was kicked out of Ethiopia last year, he said, because he upset the government there. Apparently, they didn’t like his reports on corruption and he was given just 24 hours to leave the country. While that was no doubt a huge inconvenience, I can’t help but have a soft spot for reporters who tweak the powers-that-be as much as he did.

He loved Africa, he said. He liked small towns and eschewed most of the “mod-cons,” as he called air conditioning and the like. He also carried around in his wallet a photo of his wife, Catherine, and his kids, Tom and Rose. They looked like a really nice family.

I wish the outlook looked better, but right now I’m left with hoping for the best for Anthony’s family — and for all the families of the people on that plane. For while this post is about Anthony — only because I know him — I know that he was just one person and that 114 families are anxiously awaiting word.

UPDATE 5/7/07 12:38:20 PM +0200 GMT: A grim update. Cameroon officials say there is “no chance” of survivors.