Veteran photographer killed in Afghan attack

Attack by Afghan police on eve of elections also injures reporter

View Full Gallery

In the gallery featured above, a sampling of Anja Niedringhaus’ work.

Anja Niedringhaus in 2005. Niedringhaus, 48, was killed and an AP reporter was wounded in Afghanistan on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car.
Peter Dejong/AP

A veteran Associated Press photographer was killed and an AP reporter was wounded Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while the journalists 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," said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. "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." 

Niedringhaus covered conflict zones including Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during a 20-year stretch, beginning with the Balkans in the 1990s. She had traveled to Afghanistan numerous times since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Niedringhaus, who also covered sports events around the globe, received numerous awards for her works.

The two were traveling in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost to the outskirts of the city, 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, yelled "Allahu akbar" — God is great — and 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 had died.

The shooting comes just weeks after an Agence France-Presse reporter, his wife and two of his children were killed in a gun attack at a Kabul hotel that left nine dead, and less than a month after Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot and killed in broad daylight in Kabul's heavily patrolled diplomatic district.

The Committee to Project Journalists said journalists operating in Afghanistan are under "mounting pressure," with threats and harassment coming from "the government, the military, state security organizations, insurgent groups, and regional and ethnic power brokers seeking a return to power.”

The attack on Friday highlights the poor security in the country ahead of Saturday's election, which the Taliban has vowed to disrupt, threatening to use "all force necessary.”

In an effort to bolster security, nearly 200,000 Afghan forces have been deployed to protect voters and polling stations. It will be a key test of their readiness to provide security as international combat troops prepare to withdraw by the end of this year.

Saturday's election will begin the first democratic transfer of power from one president to another — a turning point after 13 years of fighting armed groups that has claimed nearly 3,500 members of a U.S.-led coalition of troops and many thousands more from Afghanistan's security forces.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter