A veteran Associated Press photographer was killed and an AP reporter was wounded today 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, the AP correspondent who for many years was the news organization's Afghanistan bureau chief and more recently was a senior writer for the region, was shot twice and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.
"Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there. 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.
The two were travelling 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 the Afghan National Army and Afghan police. They were in their own car with a freelancer and a driver.
According to the freelancer, they had arrived in the heavily guarded district compound shortly before the incident.
As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47. He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested.
Medical officials in Khost confirmed that Niedringhaus died.
In a memo to AP staff, AP President Gary Pruitt remembered Niedringhaus as "spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember." "Anja is the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846," he wrote.
"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."
Niedringhaus covered conflict zones including Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, Gaza and the West Bank during a 20-year stretch, beginning with the Balkans in the 1990s. She had travelled to Afghanistan numerous times since the 2001 US-led invasion.