Afghanistan Election

Journalist Shot Dead, Another Injured in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A police officer shot two foreign journalists in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, killing one and wounding the other.

Award-winning Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed while getting into a vehicle with reporter Kathy Gannon at a district government compound in remote Khost province, provincial spokesman Baryalai Rawan told NBC News.

Niedringhaus, 48, was fatally shot in the head, while Gannon was hit twice in the arm and was being operated on, according to a family member. Gannon's wounds were not thought to be life-threatening.

The journalists were travelling with a convoy carrying election materials to the district that borders Pakistan ahead of Saturday’s presidential poll, according to Rawan.

Image: Photographer Anja Niedringhaus, left, was killed and her colleague Kathy Gannon, right, was injured on Friday.
Photographer Anja Niedringhaus, left, was killed and her AP colleague Kathy Gannon, right, was injured when they were attacked in eastern Afghanistan on Friday. AP, file

According to an AP Television freelancer who was traveling in the pair's vehicle and witnessed the incident, 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.

In a statement, the Taliban denied being responsible for the attack.

After the attack, Gannon underwent surgery in Khost. The operation was described as successful and Gannon's condition was said to be stable the AP reported.

Niedringhaus was a German national who was among an AP team awarded a Pulitzer prize in 2005.

Two of Niedringhaus' final pictures, taken in Afghanistan this week, were selected for NBC News’ gallery of The Week in Pictures.

Another of her photos appeared on the front of Friday's edition of the International New York Times. A selection of her work can also be found on her blog.


AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt described Niedringhaus as "spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember."

Gannon, 60, is a Canadian journalist based in Islamabad for AP. She has covered war and unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan for three decades.

"Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there," AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said. "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."

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement that he was “grieved” by the deaths and that he had ordered a full investigation into the incident.

“The President expresses his condolences to Anja's family and friends and wishes a quick recovery for the wounded reporter,” it said.

There has been a spike in violence against journalists in the country ahead of the vote.

Last month, a prominent Afghan journalist with the Agence France-Presse news agency was killed alongside eight other people when Taliban gunmen opened fire inside a heavily fortified luxury hotel in the center of Kabul.

Carol Gristanti, Jamieson Lesko and Henry Austin of NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.