KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan police commander opened fire yesterday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon.
Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.
Gannon, who for many years was the news organization’s Afghanistan bureau chief and currently is a special correspondent for the region, was shot three times in the wrists and shoulder. After surgery, she was in stable condition and spoke to medical personnel before being flown to Kabul.
“Anja was a vibrant, dynamic journalist well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life. We are heartbroken at her loss,” said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking in New York.
Niedringhaus and Gannon worked together repeatedly in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, covering the conflict from some of the most dangerous hotspots of the Taliban insurgency. They often focused on the war’s impact on Afghan civilians — and they embedded several times with Afghan police and military, reporting on their determination to build up their often underequipped forces to face the fight with militants. Gannon also knows several leading Taliban well, and was one of the few Western reporters allowed into Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s.
yesterday’s attack was particularly startling because it came as an insider shooting by a member of the Afghan security forces — the first known instance of an insider attack on journalists.
It came on the eve of Afghanistan’s elections for a new president and provincial councils. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the voting and have stepped up violence in recent weeks, including increased attacks on civilian targets in Kabul and the killings of a Swedish journalist and Afghan journalist for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.