JOHANNESBURG — President Jacob Zuma will pass information to Libyan authorities about the possible location of the remains of a South African photographer slain while covering turmoil in Libya, the president's office said Thursday.
Zuma's office released an update on Anton Hammerl after receiving a letter from the freelance photographer's family earlier Thursday pleading for help in bringing the remains home for burial. Zuma is to meet Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Libya next week as part of African Union efforts to end the fighting.
"President Zuma understands the pain and difficulty that the family is going through as every family wishes to know where their next of kin are buried," his office said in a statement. "While not wishing to raise undue expectations, the president will do whatever is possible to assist while in Tripoli."
In its letter to Zuma, Hammerl's family said its "nightmare cannot end until he is home."
In addition to pledging to bring Hammerl up himself while in the Libyan capital, Zuma said his foreign affairs department was working on the issue, and that information received from journalists about the possible location of the remains had been relayed to South African diplomats in Tripoli.
Zuma expressed his condolences to the family in the statement and on Twitter.
South African officials have accused Gadhafi and other Libyan leaders of misinforming them about Hammerl's fate, assuring them for weeks that he was alive.
Hammerl's death was confirmed May 19 by journalists who said the 41-year-old photographer had been shot and then left to die in the desert as Gadhafi's forces took his colleagues away. Hammerl's colleagues had been held by Libyan forces from the day of the shooting in early April until they were freed in May, and had been afraid to speak of his death until they were safely out of Libya.
In a letter to Zuma, Hammerl's relatives said their "lives have come to a standstill and even though we now have some idea of what happened to Anton on April 5, our hearts and minds are still in Libya every waking moment, trying to reach out to our son, our husband, our brother and our father, not knowing where his body is.
"We ask you to please use your influence on the continent to help finally bring Anton home to us, so that he can rest under the South African skies that he loved so much."
Hammerl, who also held Austrian citizenship and lived in Britain, is survived by is wife, freelance journalist Penny Sukhraj; 11-year-old daughter Aurora; sons Neo, 7 and Hiro, 15 weeks; and parents Freda and Ludwig Hammerl.
Donna Bryson can be reached on http://twitter.com/dbrysonAP