Canadian reporter wounded, AP photographer killed in Afghanistan
Published Friday, April 4, 2014 5:46AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 4, 2014 9:59PM EDT
A Canadian-born journalist working for the Associated Press in Afghanistan was shot and wounded Friday when a police officer opened fire on her vehicle. A German photographer travelling with her was killed in the attack.
Kathy Gannon, 60, who grew up in Timmins, Ont., was travelling in the Tani district along with her friend and colleague Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press photographer from Germany.
They were with a convoy of Afghan election workers delivering ballots ahead of Saturday’s presidential elections and were under the protection of the Afghan National Army and Afghan police.
According to Muhammad Lila, a Canadian reporter with ABC News, one of the Afghan police commanders who had been accompanying them on security detail turned his weapon on them.
“They were shot point blank, by a policeman who had been with them for most of the day,” Lila told CTV’s Canada AM from Kabul.
“Up until the point where they were shot, there was no indication this policeman had any intention of violence. Suddenly, he walks up to the car as they’re sitting in the back seat, opens fire, shouts “God is Great” in Arabic ("Allahu Akbar"), and then raises his hands and turns himself in.
Afghan police say the attacker wanted to avenge family members who died in a NATO bombing.
Niedringhaus, 48, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television freelancer who witnessed the shooting.
Gannon was hit twice in each arm. She underwent surgery to remove the bullets and is currently in stable condition, says her husband, Naeem Pasha.
“She is in shock, I am told, more by Anja’s passing away than for herself,” Pasha told Canada AM from Islamabad.
It’s expected Gannon will be airlifted shortly to Frankfurt, Germany.
Gannon has covered conflict in Afghanistan for three decades, an unusually long posting for a foreign correspondent. She has been based in Pakistan, where she lives with her husband.
Gannon began her reporting on Afghanistan in 1986 as the Soviet Union was being defeated by the Afghan mujahedeen. She then witnessed the subsequent feuding between warlords, the rise of the Taliban, and the subsequent arrival of Arabs, including Osama bin Laden.
Lila says Gannon is an inspiration as a journalist.
“She is a friend, she is a mentor, she is an inspiration. And I do have to say, she is one of the gutsiest and bravest journalists who cover this region," Lila said.
"She’s been here for decades. She was covering the Taliban before anyone even knew who the Taliban were.”
Pasha said Gannon and Niedringhaus had been friends and colleagues for several years and had done several imbeds together, including with the Pakistani army.
“Anja, in the last five, six years, became part of the family. She always came and stayed with us,” he said.
AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said the news agency was heartbroken over Niedringhaus's death.
"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," she said.
In 2002, Gannon was the recipient of the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism award and in 2003-04, received the Edward R. Murrow fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2006, she published a memoir entitled "I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror in Afghanistan."
In an interview from 2011 with Intercultures Magazine and posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs website, Gannon said she knew very early on in her career that she wanted to travel abroad.
She told the publication that after years of reporting on Afghanistan, she felt very little had changed in the lives of most people in the country over the last 20 years.
“Today, things are very much the way they were in '94 or '95 before the Taliban came, which means that it's hugely insecure and people are limited in their development,” she said.
“After the fall of the Taliban, Afghans truly believed there was going to be a change but if you look at the rural South, it's pretty much the same old thing and now everyone is paying the price for it.”
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks on Westerners, including two other journalists killed in separate incidents.
Former Afghanistan correspondent Graeme Smith told CTV News that it’s unclear whether journalists are now being targeted.
“The Taliban say they are not targeting journalists specifically, but that’s cold comfort when journalists die,” Smith said.
With a report from CTV News’ Laurie Graham and with files from The Associated Press