AP photographer killed and reporter wounded on eve of Afghan election

The attack came on the eve of nationwide elections in Afghanistan and the Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday’s vote for a new president and provincial councils.

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KABUL // An 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.

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

Kathy Gannon, an AP correspondent who for many years was the news organisation’s Afghanistan bureau chief, was shot twice and later underwent surgery.

She was in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.

The attack came on the eve of nationwide elections in Afghanistan. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday’s vote for a new president and provincial councils.

The two were travelling on Friday in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the centre of Khost city to the outskirts, in the eastern Tani district. The convoy was protected by Afghan security forces.

They were in their own car with a translator and the AP freelancer.

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 and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47.

He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, expressed his deep sadness over Niedringhaus’ death and the wounding of Gannon.

Niedringhaus covered conflict zones including Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, Gaza and the West Bank during a 20-year stretch, beginning with the Balkans in the 1990s. She had travelled to Afghanistan numerous times since the 2001 US-led invasion.

Niedringhaus has received numerous awards for her works.

Gannon, 60, is a Canadian journalist based in Islamabad who has covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the AP since mid-1980s.

She is a former Edward R Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and the author of a book on the country, I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan.

In the run-up to Saturday’s vote, Afghan security and electoral officials have vowed not to let the Taliban and other militant derail the elections while conceding it is impossible to prevent the Islamic militants from waging acts of violence.

The militants have also increasingly been targeting Westerners. In recent weeks, the Taliban also have claimed responsibility for attacks in the capital against a luxury hotel, a foreign guesthouse, a Swedish journalist and a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners.

* Associated Press