Afghan policeman kills photo-journalist, injures reporter

A police commander today shot two journalists covering Afghanistan’s election for the Associated Press, killing German photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus and injuring Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon.  Said an Associated Press statement by Gary Pruitt:

It is with grief and great sadness that I let you know that photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been killed while working in Afghanistan. Anja and Kathy Gannon, regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, were in Khost covering the run-up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan when, it appears, they were targeted and attacked. Kathy survived, but Anja died. Kathy is being treated at a hospital.

Niedringhaus becomes the 26th journalist killed in Afghanistan, according to Reporters Without Borders. On March 21 Agence France-Presse journalist Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of their three children were among nine people shot dead in a Kabul hotel restaurant.

The two AP journalists were in their own car which was stopped in a convoy, “when a police commander approached the car and looked through its windows,” the New York Times reported from Kabul. “He apparently stepped away momentarily before wheeling around and shouting “Allahu akbar!” — God is great — and opening fire with an AK-47, witnesses and The A.P. said. His shots were all directed at the back seat.”

“Where once reporters and photographers were seen as the impartial eyes and ears of crucial information, today they are often targets,” said the AP statement. “This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important.  Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way. We will  miss her terribly.”

— Deborah Jones

UPDATE, July 23, 2014: Six judges in the Kabul District Court today convicted police unit commander Naqibullah, an Afghan police officer, of of murder and treason in the killing of Niedringhaus and wounding of Gannon. The court sentenced him to death for the murder and to four years in prison for wounding Gannon, the AP reported. The case may yet be appealed and Afghanistan’s president is required to sign off on the execution order.

Further reading:

Anja Niedringhaus’s web site  
Kathy Gannon’s web site 
Associated Press statement 
The Atlantic 2013 feature on Anja Niedringhaus’s photos