Veteran Associated Press (AP) photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot and killed on in Kabul Friday. An Afghan police man is responsible for her death. Journalist Kathy Gannon was also wounded in the shooting. The region is known to be extremely volatile and attacks are increasing in frequency as the election looms.
The pair were travelling with a convoy following workers for the upcoming Afghan elections. The convoy was travelling through the eastern Khost region and protected by police and Afghan soldiers. On the eve of the elections, the pair had just arrived in a heavily guarded district compound and they were in their own car with a translator waiting for the convoy to move. A command unit officer named Naqibullah then walked over to the car and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (which translates to God is Great) and opened fire. Niedringhaus died instantly and Gannon was rushed to a local hospital.
It may seem surprising that the Afghan policeman was able to kill the AP photographer and wound the journalist in an area that was supposed to be heavily guarded. But the area in which the incident occurred boarders on Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, known for its lawlessness and connections with Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. There have also been an increase in violent attacks in an effort to derail the elections for a new president. The attacks are frequently targeted against foreign correspondents and Westerners. The assault on the pair comes just weeks after Taliban gunmen opened fire on a luxury hotel in Kabul killing eight people, including a Afghan journalist Sardar Ahmad who worked for the Agence France-Presse and his wife and children. A Swedish journalist Nils Horner was also shot dead recently as he was conducting interviews to do with the election. An extremist Taliban group has claimed responsibility for his death.
AP President Gary Pruitt recalls that Niedringhaus as a brave and “fearless” person with a warm heart and a love of life. Niedringhaus began her illustrious career at the age of 16, when she worked as a freelance photographer for a local paper in her home town of Hoexter, Germany. She spent a large part of her time in conflict zones. She covered the fall of the Berlin wall and brutal conditions in former Yugoslavia. In 2005, she was part of the AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Iraq war. Her photographs showed the realities of war, for example, the struggles and pressures on a U.S marine who is mourning the loss of his comrades or the impressions left on the young as seen through a picture of Afghan boy holding a toy gun on a swing.
She and Gannon were Afghanistan veterans, but even so, only a few days before her death, Gannon stated that she was worried about going to the area. But Niedringhaus told her that this was something she was meant to do. The loss of Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus has devastated the journalistic community. The Afghan policeman who shot and killed her is in now in custody. Kathy Gannon is said to be wounded, but in a stable condition. The U.S military want to evacuate her as soon as possible.
By Sara Watson