Rebecca Santana, a journalist who has excelled at reporting and leading The Associated Press' coverage from two of the most challenging places in the world, Iraq and Pakistan, has been hired as the news cooperative's correspondent for the Deep South.

The appointment was announced Monday by South Region Editor Lisa Marie Pane and Deep South Editor Jim Van Anglen. Santana will be based in New Orleans and will spend time reporting and writing throughout the Deep South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

As bureau chief in Pakistan, Santana covered Pakistan's nationwide elections in 2013 and the changing roles of women in the country. She expanded AP's coverage of the Pakistani military, including exclusive reporting on a military school designed to counter homemade bombs. She's traveled to the remote tribal regions of North and South Waziristan to report on the war against militants. Most recently, she led AP's coverage of a Taliban attack on a school that killed 150 people.

"Rebecca has worked in some of the toughest places in the world, finding and telling some of the most compelling stories," Pane said. "We're excited to have her capture the Deep South for the world."

"Rebecca is a tremendous journalist, who has excelled under some of the most challenging circumstances any journalist will ever face," Van Anglen said. "She has a unique ability to write significant stories with both sweep and context, as well as mentor other journalists across formats. We are excited that Rebecca is joining the Deep South news team."

Santana, 43, previously served as AP's bureau chief in Baghdad, playing a key role in AP's coverage of significant international events, such as elections and withdrawal of U.S. forces. She scored scoops, collaborated with photo and video journalists, and produced compelling enterprise. She won the Military Reporters & Editors Association's 2012 award for overseas coverage for her Iraq work.

Santana has also worked as an editor on AP's Middle East Desk in Cairo, as well as a newsperson on both the North American Desk in New York and in the New Jersey bureau.

She earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley.