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Probe Into The Shooting Of Foreign Journalists Launched

April 14, 2014

Kabul: Afghan security officials are investigating a recent attack against two prominent foreign journalists in the country's eastern Khost province bordering Pakistan.

On April 4 a young man from the Afghan National Police force shot and killed Anja Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning German photojournalist, and seriously injured Kathy Gannon, a senior reporter who has spent decades covering the war in Afghanistan.

The gunman has been identified. Known only by his first name, Najibullah, his motive for attacking the two women journalists who had come to Khost to cover Afghanistan's April 5 presidential and local council elections remains unclear. 

Gannon, 60, is a veteran Associated Press reporter who began her work in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion that began in 1979.

She continued to report from remote Afghan villages when the country slipped into civil war in the 1990's and, at great personal risk, during the Taliban regime.

Gannon is warmly regarded by Afghans as one of a small number of foreign journalists committed to reporting from the country's most remote regions. Her colleagues in Kabul describe her as a woman who took inspiration from ordinary Afghans and enjoyed telling their stories. 

Amir Shah, an Associated Press journalist and a friend of Gannon's for more than two decades, told RFE/RL's Afghan service that "an attack on a defenseless woman who wanted nothing else but to try to help brings shame and the feeling of helplessness." 

Shah described working with Gannon during the Taliban regime. He praised her bravery as a woman who was the last to be scared when it came to reporting on an issue that interested her.  

Obviously shaken, Shah recalled, "On one of our trips to Kandahar in 1996, Kathy bought a little pomegranate tree to plant in the backyard of our office in Kabul. It is still there. She loved Afghanistan's pomegranates."

Shah recalled that the first question Gannon would ask any little Afghan girl she met on reporting trips in the country's remote villages was, “do you go to school?”

Seeing Afghan girls going to school brought her great joy, Shah said, noting the many times they discussed the importance of women's empowerment for Afghanistan's future prosperity.  

Shah had seen Gannon right before she left for Khost.  

After the attack, Gannon and Niedringhaus were rushed to the local hospital in Khost for emergency treatment and then transported to Kabul. Shah next saw his friend at the hospital. "She had bullets in her chest and both arms, [and was] on a hospital bed fighting to regain consciousness," he said. 

"I couldn't [bear to] see this kind woman struggling for [her] life. She hardly knew what had happened to her," said Shah, adding, "Honestly, I felt kind of ashamed that she was attacked by an Afghan man." 

She has been transferred to Germany for further medical care. 

Shah said senior Afghan security officials have disclosed information to the media that the attacker "is possibly mentally unstable--something attacks his brain and he loses control," but to date no evidence has been brought to support such claims.  

His colleagues in Khost province have described him as a man of strong faith and discipline, and  told the media that he treated others respectfully and was not on drugs. Source: Radio Free Europe


AP Photographer Killed, report Shot in South Eastern Afghanistan

April 4, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Afghanistan Journalists Center is saddened to learn that the Associated Press photographer, was killed and an AP reporter, was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in South Eastern province of Khost.

AFJC condemn the brutal attack against the journalist, calling it an act against freedom of press.

We extend our condolences to the victim’s family and wishing the wounded reporter an immediate recovery.

Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television News freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

Kathy Gannon, the AP correspondent who for many years was the news organization's Afghanistan bureau chief and more recently was a senior writer for the region, was shot twice and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.

According to the German daily, thelocal, She started her career as a freelance photographer for a local newspaper in her hometown of Höxter, North Rhine-Westphalia, at the age of 16.

After finishing high school, she went on to study German literature, philosophy, and journalism in Göttingen, according to her website.

She went on to work for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) as a chief photographer until 2001 where she covered the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. She was also based for several years in Sarajevo and in Moscow.

In 2002 Niedringhaus joined the AP as a staff photographer based in Geneva, Switzerland, which remained her base.

She covered most of the world’s conflicts including Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and had been injured several times.

On her first day in Sarajevo, Niedringhaus was hit by a sniper’s bullet.

And in 1997, her foot was crushed and broken in three places by a police car while she was covering demonstrations in Belgrade.

In 1998 in Kosovo, Niedringhaus was blown out of a car by a grenade and in Albania in 1999 she was one of a group of journalists mistakenly bombed by Nato forces.

"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.

The two were traveling in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost city to the outskirts, in Tani district. The convoy was protected by the Afghan National Army and Afghan police. They were in their own car with a freelancer and a driver.

According to the freelancer, they had arrived in the heavily guarded district compound shortly before the incident.

As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, 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.

US military frees Salam Watandar reporter in Khost

KHOST, December 5, 2010

Local reporter of Internews-funded Salam Watandar radio network in the southeastern province of Khost has been set free by the US military after a day in detention.

Mali Khan Yaqubi was taken in custody on Saturday morning from his home by the US forces and was released Sunday 10 am after a day of interrogations.

Yaqubi said he was questioned about links to the Haqqani militant group which is very active in the southeast of Afghanistan and attacks foreign and Afghan forces there.

He said American troops raided his home in Sabari district, broke the door of the house and blindfolded him with his three brothers.

“They behaved too cruelly when raided our home. They took us to their military base thought they could not find anything during their search of our home,” said Yaqubi.

He also lamented the general treatment of the US military during interrogation process. He was set free after the military found him innocent, Yaqubi said, adding that three of his brothers were still in the US custody in a place not known to him.

Mali Khan, 29, is covering the Southeast for Salam Watandar network which is the biggest network of local radios in Afghanistan. He had recently also joined Pajhwok Afghan News.

Masood Fariwar, managing editor of Salam Watandar, said the US military, by detaining journalists without any evidences about their suspicions was illegal and was a threat to freedom of media.

“The American military first detains somebody, and then they find that the intelligence they got were wrong,” said Fariwar.

The US military has frequently detained journalists for having suspecions about their links to militant groups. Aljazeera reporters in Ghazni and Kandahar were detained in similar raid of their houses in Sunbala this year by the American forces and were later released as innocent.