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German, Canadian Journalists Gunned Down By Afghan Policeman


German photographer Anja Niedringhaus, seen here in a 2008 photo, had covered conflict all over the globe in assignments that resulted in serious injuries on a number of occasions.
An attack on two Western journalists has left one of them dead and the other critically wounded in eastern Afghanistan, one day ahead of presidential and legislative elections that Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt.

Award-winning German news photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot dead and her Canadian colleague Kathy Gannon was seriously wounded by an Afghan police officer.

Both work for AP news agency.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has expressed "deep sadness" over the attack.

The two journalists were working in Khost Province, in a remote small town on Afghanistan's border with Pakistan when the incident took place early on April 4.

Mubarez Zadran, a spokesman for the Khost governor, said the suspected attacker, a junior commander in the Afghan National Police (ANP), was apprehended at the scene.

"The officer that attacked the journalist has been arrested and he is currently under investigation," the spokesman said. "He was identified as Naqibullah, a young man from the Afghan police. We are trying to learn the possible motives behind the attack, but we cannot disclose much information now. Once the investigation is completed, we will share more details with the media."

Zadran said Gannon's life was out of danger.

"According to the information that I have just got from the hospital [to which Gannon was admitted], fortunately, I can tell you that her operation was successful and she is out of risk and concern."

Witnesses said the two journalists were traveling in a convoy delivering election ballots. The convoy was guarded by the Afghan Army and police.

When the convoy reportedly halted and the two journalists were sitting in their vehicle, the attacker approached them and opened fire before surrendering to police.

Niedringhaus, 48, was part of a team of 11 AP photographers that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of the Iraq War.

She had been injured in other high-risk assignments -- including being hit by a sniper's bullet on her first day in Sarajevo and getting blown out of a car in Albania, according to a biography on

Gannon, 60, had been covering war and unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as events in Iran for three decades.

Speaking from New York, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll confirmed the attack, adding, "We are heartbroken at the loss."

A statement from the office of President Karzai said "he is deeply sad over the attack on two foreign journalists in Khost province."

It said Karzai had asked Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry and Khost governor to transfer Gannon to Kabul immediately and make every effort to further secure her well-being. Karzai is "upset by the incident and sympathizes with the families of the two women," the statement said.

The head of the Asia-Pacific desk of Reporters Without Borders, Benjamin Ismail, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Paris-based organization was shocked and strongly condemns the attack.

Ismail noted that attacks on journalists have been increasing as presidential and legislative elections approached.

"In times of insecurity and in terms of impunity of crimes against the media, [the situation] has been worsening in the recent months," Ismail said. "This is something that is definitely worrying us and it is a trend that we have been trying to counter. We have been repeatedly calling the local and national authorities to take additional measures in order to protect journalists and all media collaborators."

Other journalists have been attacked in recent weeks as Afghanistan prepares to conduct presidential elections on April 5.

French news agency AFP's senior Afghan reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife, and two of his three children were killed on March 20 when gunmen attacked a Kabul hotel.

Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot dead in Kabul on March 11.

Last month, a prominent Afghan journalist and eight other people were killed by Taliban gunmen in Kabul.
With reporting by dpa and Reuters