Associated Press Kathy Gannon was wounded and her colleague, photographer Anja Niedringhaus, was killed on Friday, April 4, 2014 when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan. Associated Press
A German photographer was killed and a Canadian reporter was wounded in eastern Afghanistan after a police officer opened fire on the women while they were sitting in their car with two other people a day before the start of the national election.
Anja Niedringhaus, 48, internationally acclaimed for her photography, died instantly, according to an AP Television freelancer who witnessed the shooting.
Kathy Gannon, 60, was wounded twice in the arm and shoulder and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.
According to Naeem Pasha, Gannon's husband, Gannon and Niedringhaus had been working together in Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly five years, including several embeds with the Afghan National Army and Pakistani security forces.
Both journalists had spent 20-plus years covering the region.
"Kathy has been working in this area for almost 25 years now. It's like she knows everybody in Afghanistan, and if you asked her, she could rattle off names from end of the country to the other," Pasha told CBC News in an interview from his home in Islamabad on Friday morning.
The two women were travelling in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the centre of Khost to the outskirts, in Tani district. The convoy was protected by the Afghan army and Afghan police. Niedringhaus and Gannon were in their own car with a freelancer and a driver.
According to Pasha, the two had gone to shoot footage of the ballots for potential pieces on the upcoming nationwide elections. When it began to rain heavily, they decided to wait in their car to protect the camera equipment.
As they were in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up, yelled "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47. He then surrendered to other police and was arrested.
Medical officials in Khost confirmed that Niedringhaus had died.
Pasha said the shooter did not fire into the front of the vehicle — only into the back seats where Gannon and Niedringhaus were sitting.
"Whether it was because they are foreigners, or because they were journalists, I can't be sure ... but I know I feel very sad for Anja's life," he said.
According to freelance journalist Kate Clark, who had worked with both Gannon and Niedringhaus and knows them personally, a potential motive for the shooting was revenge for a U.S. airstrike that killed some of the gunman's family in a province north of Kabul.
"Obviously, it is ironic because both of these reporters are humanitarians. They've done lots of work to uncover atrocities committed by all sides in this conflict," Clark told CBC News on Friday morning.
Pasha said Gannon is conscious and in stable condition, but is in shock. He hopes she will be transferred to a German hospital in the coming days, or to Islamabad where the couple lives.
John Danizewski, an Associated Press senior managing editor, says Gannon successfully received surgery and that her wounds have been closed, but she also has some broken bones.
Shooting follows brazen murders
News of Friday's shooting comes on the heels of two other high-profile, brazen daylight murders of foreign journalists in Kabul.
Agence France-Press reporter Sardar Ahmad was gunned down, alongside his wife and three children, in the lobby of the Serena Hotel, a popular spot for foreigners in Kabul, on March 21. A week earlier, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was executed in broad daylight outside an oft-frequented café.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the national election starting Saturday, previously attacking an elections office in Kabul and a guesthouse used by foreigners in the capital.
Pasha said Gannon had expressed fears about the stability of the country in recent weeks.
"She would get really teary-eyed and emotional about what is happening in the country. This was the first time she sounded more worried than anything else," he said of a phone conservation the two had just days ago.