Police commander in Afghanistan murders one journalist, injures another

When I heard the first reports this monring of a female journalist killed in Afghanistan, I assumed she was attached to a unit that came under fire in combat.  Not so – it was a case of cold-blooded jihad murder.  According to reports cited by International Business Times, Associated Press photographer Anja Nidringhaus and reporter Kathy Gannon were sitting in the back seat of a car, in a secure compound in the Khost province, when a police commander currently identified only as “Naqibullah” walked up to their vehicle, screamed “Allahu Akbar”, and opened fire on the two women with an AK-47.

Naqibullah then surrendered to other Afghan police, and is reportedly in custody.  Ah, the mighty jihad warrior: fully capable of killing an unarmed woman sitting in the back of a car, provided he has the element of surprise.

More details from IBT:

The injured journalist was named as experienced Canadian-born Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent Kathy Gannon by the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.

She was wounded twice and is receiving medical attention, according to AP. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.

Internationally acclaimed German photographer Anja Niedringhaus, 48, was named as the journalist killed.

The two were in a police station the remote small town of Khost on the Afghanistan border with Pakistan when the incident took place.

“Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there. 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,” said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking in New York.

They had been reporting from the Tanay district in Khost province with an official from the Independent Election Commission when the attack took place, an interior ministry source told the BBC.

“Naqibullah, a policeman in Tani district of Khost, opened fire on two foreign journalists. One was killed and one was wounded,” a spokesman for the governor of Khost province, Mobariz Zadran, told Reuters.

Afghanistan is preparing for presidential elections, heightening security in response to threats from the Taliban.  According to Reuters, Niedringhaus and Gannon were preparing to follow a convoy of election workers delivering ballots to rural voters.  The attack will send a chilling “no one is safe” signal to those voters.

Violence in Afghanistan has been escalating throughout the year, in the run-up to the elections, as Reuters reports:

Taliban attacks on security forces and civilians have been on the rise since the start of the year ahead of Saturday’s vote when Afghans will elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai who is barred by the constitution from running again.

The assault on the AP journalists came just weeks after an Afghan journalist with the Agence France-Presse news agency was killed alongside eight other people when Taliban gunmen opened fire inside a luxury hotel in the center of the capital, Kabul.

Also in March, a gunman shot dead Swedish journalist Nils Horner, 51, outside a restaurant in Kabul.

German-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning Anja Niedringhaus sounds like she was an amazing woman.  She won her Pulitzer for covering the war in Iraq.  She had reportedly been shot before; according to a colleague, she would just “shrug it off and get on with life.”  She was said to have been “very affected” by the murder of the AFP journalist described above, whose wife and children were also targeted in the attack.

Injured corresponded Kathy Gannon is Canadian, and had 30 years of experience covering Afghanistan.  According to the New York Times“she is one of the few Western reporters who the Taliban permitted to work in Kabul when they ruled Afghanistan.”  The Times also said the Taliban has not yet claimed responsibility for the shooting.