An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan.
The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to today’s presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s troubled recent history that promises to be the nation’s first democratic transfer of power.
Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, died instantly of her wounds.
Gannon, 60, 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.
Niedringhaus and Gannon had worked together repeatedly in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, covering the conflict from some of the most dangerous hot spots of the Taliban insurgency. They often focused on the war’s impact on Afghan civilians, and they embedded several times with the Afghan police and military, reporting on the Afghan government’s determination to build up its often ill-equipped forces to face the fight against militants.
Gannon, who had sources inside the Taliban leadership, was one of the few Western reporters allowed into Afghanistan during the militant group’s rule in the 1990s.