He worked for The New York Times for four years before leaving to start his own public service radio station. He received top marks in a grueling, yearlong preparatory course for a public policy master’s degree program in Germany. During his spare time, he joined a social networking site for book lovers and chatted online with readers in Paraguay.
After this reporter escaped from Taliban captivity in June, Mr. Munadi sent a typically ebullient e-mail message.
“Oh my God!” he wrote. “I’m really really happy for this great news. I’ll thank billions of times the God for this freedom.”
Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Munadi died in a predawn raid by British commandos trying to rescue him and Stephen Farrell, a correspondent for The Times, from Taliban captivity. The two men had been kidnapped in northern Afghanistan on Saturday while reporting on a NATO bombing that killed scores of people, possibly including many civilians.
Mr. Munadi was killed as he tried to lead Mr. Farrell to safety.
Walking in front of Mr. Farrell as they tried to reach British forces, Mr. Munadi stepped out from behind a wall, raised his hands and identified himself as a journalist. A hail of bullets immediately felled him.
“He was trying to protect me up to the last minute,” Mr. Farrell said.
The death of Mr. Munadi illustrated two grim truths of the war in Afghanistan: vastly more Afghans than foreigners have died battling the Taliban, and foreign journalists are only as good as the Afghan reporters who work with them.
Mr. Munadi, 34, the father of two boys, worked as an office manager and reporter in the Kabul bureau. He and other Afghan reporters who work with foreign journalists are vastly more than interpreters.
“The story calls him an ‘interpreter,’ which misleads the reader about what these great people do for us,” Barry Bearak, a Times correspondent who worked with Mr. Munadi in 2001 and 2002, said, referring to an article about Mr. Munadi’s death.
“They serve as our walking history books, political analysts,” he added, “managers of logistics, taking equal the risks without equal the glory or pay.”
Those who worked with him said his country’s turmoil did not dampen his spirit or limit his determination. During Taliban rule, he worked with the International Red Cross in his native Panjshir Valley, a mountainous area north of Kabul that was never ruled by the Taliban, even when they dominated the country from 1996 to 2001.
That year, he began working with the foreign journalists who flooded northern Afghanistan as American forces prepared to invade. He was impartial and showed a remarkable attention to detail.
“He would always pause for a second before starting to translate, as if thinking it over, making sure he had it right, then say, ‘O.K.,’ and launch in,” Amy Waldman, a former Times correspondent who worked with Mr. Munadi from 2002 to 2005, said. “If he’d realized he’d forgotten a detail, he’d call or e-mail to make sure you had it, a kind of meticulousness that comes not from rote compulsion, but from a profound need to do justice to whomever or whatever we were writing about.”
Jane Scott Long, who revamped the Kabul bureau with Mr. Munadi in 2002, remembered the same qualities. He deftly guided foreigners through a city filled with merchants eager to exact the highest prices from outsiders.
“He was my eyes, ears and voice in unfamiliar territory after the fall of the Taliban,” Ms. Scott Long said. “I trusted his judgment with negotiations, and I trusted him with my life. No question.”
Mr. Munadi’s decision to leave The Times in 2005 was a reflection of his commitment to his country. Staying in the newspaper’s Kabul bureau — a stable, comparatively well-paid job for an Afghan — was the easy path. Instead, he decided to start his own public service radio station, a financially risky venture, because he believed independent Afghan media were vital to stabilizing his country.
“His motivation was not self-serving, but to gain knowledge to bring back to Afghanistan,” Tyler Hicks, a photographer for the newspaper who has covered Afghanistan since 2001, said. “He was a patriot in the truest form.”
For years he had pushed himself to excel. After the fall of the Taliban, he completed his university studies while working for The Times. In his personal life, he married an educated woman, fathered two sons and bragged that his wife studied at a university, a brave act in a nation where extremists regularly attack schools for girls.
After the radio station struggled, Mr. Munadi won admission to a two-year master’s degree program in public policy at Erfurt University in eastern Germany. He had spent the last year in an intensive, English-language preparatory program at the university. In October, he was scheduled to begin the first year of the program.
Before resuming his studies in Germany, Mr. Munadi agreed to work as a reporter for The Times for a month around the Aug. 20 elections.
Mr. Farrell expressed despair Wednesday at Mr. Munadi’s death, saying he was “three seconds away from safety” when he was shot.