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6:45am — Report: N.M.’s Colorful, Controversial Kurt Lohbeck Dead at 68

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Long before ‘Gunga Dan,’ former state rep. reported from Afghanistan for CBS.

Kurt Lohbeck — a longtime New Mexico political character, local broadcaster, author, correspondent for CBS News in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 10 years, professional magician — died Thursday in an Albuquerque hospital, Lohbeck’s wife told blogger Joe Monahan.

Lohbeck served a term in the New Mexico House of Representatives, was an Albuquerque TV and radio newsman, then was in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion in the late `70s, Monahan wrote this morning in his “New Mexico Politics” blog.

According to Monahan, Lohbeck began his New Mexico political career as a Young Republican in the 1950s, then hooked up with a then-unknown Dave Cargo and helped make him governor in 1966.

Lohbeck was one of the few people from the western world to meet the infamous Osama bin Laden during his stint as the only full-time American news correspondent in Afghanistan for 10 years until 1993, according to an interview Lohbeck gave the Albuquerque Journal just days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

And he had the photo to prove it — Lohbeck, dressed as a mujahedin, is sitting in a group with the terrorist mastermind somewhere in the Afghan outback.

Lohbeck wrote of his experiences in the 1993 book, “Holy War, Unholy Victory: Eyewitness to the CIA’s Secret War in Afghanistan.”

According to a brief article that appeared in the Journal in 1994, when he rejoined his old friend Cargo who was making an ultimately unsuccessful gubernatorial run, Lohbeck was appointed to the state House of Representatives in the mid-70s, then spent about six months in a New Mexico prison following a bad check conviction in 1977.

Lohbeck then moved on to work as an aide to then-U.S. Rep. Manuel Lujan Jr. in Washington, D.C., and later was off to Afghanistan, the Journal reported.

He returned to the United States in 1992 and was off to work on Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in California, according to the Journal.

More recently, the Journal caught up with Lohbeck in his incarnation as a professional magician and president of the local chapter of the Society of American Magicians.

Details of Lohbeck’s death and funeral arrangements weren’t immediately available.