Friday, April 4, 2014

Afghanistan: AP Team Shot by Afghan Cop, German Killed, Canadian Undergoes Surgery, Stable

According to The Associated Press, KABUL, a veteran AP photographer was shot and killed and another AP journalist wounded on Friday (April 4) when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan.

Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television News freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

Kathy Gannon, a Canadian AP correspondent who for many years was AP's Afghanistan bureau chief and currently a special correspondent for the region, was shot twice and later underwent surgery. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.

The two shooting victims were traveling Friday in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost city to the outskirts, in Tani district. The convoy was protected by Afghan security forces. They were in their own car with a translator and the AP freelancer.

As they were sitting in their waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled "Allahu Akbar" — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47, the freelancer said. The assailant then surrendered to the police and was arrested.

COMMENT: Our prayers, sympathies and condolences go out to the global AP family.

President Hamid Karzai expressed his deep sadness over Niedringhaus' death and the wounding of Gannon.

Given how repugnant most Afghans feel about foreigners, it must be considered than an armed attack on two foreign journalists may very well have been ordered by senior-level officials.

Niedringhaus covered conflict zones including Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, Gaza and the West Bank during a 20-year tenure, beginning with the Balkans in the 1990s. She had traveled to Afghanistan numerous times since the 2001 US-led invasion.

Niedinghaus was part of an AP team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography for coverage of the war in Iraq and was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation. 

She joined the AP in 2002 and had since been based in Geneva. From 2006 to 2007, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship in journalism at Harvard University.

Niedringhaus started her career as a freelance photographer for a local newspaper in her hometown in Hoexter, Germany at the age of 16. She had also published two books.

Gannon, 60, is a journalist based in Islamabad who has covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the AP since mid-1980s.

Gannon is a former Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and the author of a book on the country, "I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan."

After the attack, Gannon underwent surgery in Khost. The operation was described as successful and Gannon's condition was said to be stable.

The militants have also increasingly been targeting Westerners. In recent weeks, the Taliban also have claimed responsibility for attacks in Kabul at the five-star Serena Hotel.

The Swedish reporter, Nils Horner, 51, had worked for Swedish Radio since 2001 as a foreign correspondent. He was shot and killed as he was reporting on Afghanistan's election on a street in Kabul in early March. A Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for Horner's death.