Veteran AP Photographer Killed by Afghan Policeman Who Opened Fire on Her Vehicle


In a yet another tragic loss for the photojournalistic community, acclaimed German AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus lost her life Friday in eastern Afghanistan when an Afghan policeman opened fire on the car she was sitting in.

According to the AP report, Niedringhaus, 48, was in a car with AP reporter Kathy Gannon, a AP Television News freelancer and a driver. They had just arrived at a heavily guarded district compound and were waiting for the convoy to move forward when a unit commander by the name of Naqibullah “walked up to the car, yelled ‘Allahu anjaAkbar’ — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47.”

Gannon was shot twice, is being treated by medical personnel and is in stable condition, but Niedringhaus was killed instantly according to the freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

“Anja is the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846,” wrote AP president Gary Pruitt in a staff memo. “This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate and important. Anja Niedringhaus met that definition in every way.”

The International Business Times has put together a gallery of some of her most moving work in tribute.

Image credits: Photographs by the US Marine Corps and the Associated Press

  • Ygor Oliveira

    Very sad reality, yet she died doing what she loved to do.

  • Andy

    A terrible way to go.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Regardless of passion or profession, getting shot is a terrible way to go.

  • Rob Elliott

    Why did this happen though? it is just so random.

    How much of a misogynist does one have to be to randomly kill to women journalists. If this was a unit commander assigned to a high security area.. he would have had to bid his time and be good at his job… to do what kill two people without meaning?

    There are serious issues.

  • Carsten Schlipf

    Note that Anja Niedringhaus has received the Pulitzer Price for her work in Irak.

  • W.A.

    God Bless, thank you for the imagery. This is a terrible way to die. I’m happy to see her work live on.

  • Frodo

    Islam: the religion of peace!

  • Morgan Glassco

    and God was also noted for her death. Ironic.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    I heard on the news that the gunman surrendered right after he murdered them. Apparently there are going to be elections there soon, and the violence has ramped up recently against foreigners.

  • Carsten Schlipf

    She wasn’t killed in action. She was cowardly killed by a surprise attacke while waiting in the car.

  • Rick Gomez

    Pretty sure that should read “Religion: the religion of peace!”

  • Spongebob Nopants

    The above comment is not appropriate here but neither is false equivalency. So I feel compelled to chime in with what I’ve learned from reading on this subject for the past 13 years.
    It’s also off the mark because problem is that these derps combine religion, politics, nationalism, identity and, most of all, a law system to the point where they’re all one single thing. Compared to that tightly intertwined ideology a human life is nothing.
    We just don’t comprehend that. Athiests come close to understanding it but only in terms of western societies, where those realms are comparatively seperate.
    The result is that we often think of the motivations of terrorists as being religious OR political OR nationalist. Not understanding that it’s all of them has led to repeated screw ups.
    The closest thing we can comprehend is the leader cults of North Korea, Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
    And mac users.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    The dirty truth about why so many journalists get killed in war is that according to standard military procedure, propagandists are supposed to be treated just like an armed enemy soldier.
    Journalists are often considered to be just such enemy propogandists.
    I doubt the Taliban understands that most western journalists are expected to adhere to standards of objectivity.

  • gochugogi

    Mac users, Stalin, North Korea and Mao? Nobody is that that stupid or narrow minded so I assume you’re making an attempt at bad taste humor and/or are a teenage troll…

  • Rob Elliott

    It’s a shame it was a good post up to that point.

  • Rob Elliott

    This is not Islamic in motivation, nothing in Islam says randomly kill women for no reason, beyond misogyny and political intimidation. In fact assuming this was religious without more information shows a sad uneducated prejudice.

    Updated information has shown this is purely political/cultural not religious in motivation. The Man who shot these women did so out of a cultural not a religious vengeance system. NATO bombed this man’s family by mistake.

    Vengeance killing was part of the culture in the area long before Islam. Islam actually curbed a lot of it.

    In the end this man felt the need to kill a German and tried to kill a Canadian, likely because an American can’t aim or over reacted and killed a group of civilians. America: the nation that popularized friendly fire.

  • Rob Elliott

    Actually this was apparently a vengeance killing, NATO mistakenly blew up his family with a jet, so he went after foreigners. This was purely culture vengeance.

    I feel bad for all involved.

  • Frostbit Panda

    It’s ok, there are plenty of photographers out there who will take her place at half the rate AP paid her.

  • Rob S

    come on, that last part was kinda funny.

  • Rob S

    Atheists are just as capable of evil. Bottom line is there are evil people int he world looking for justification for their evil. The justification enables the evil by giving it some ‘top cover” and it allows the evil doers to hold off the ill effects of doing evil a little longer. Some choose religion, some choose nationalism, some color, some choose a menu of excuses. But it is all a facade for evil that would be done without reason.

  • Rob S

    um…no. in fact most military leaders understand that you get far more value out of live journalists.

    Please tell me where this “standard military procedure” comes from. I have been studying military doctrine for almost 3 decades and I have never run across it. Not in US doctrine, Soviet doctrine, Russian doctrine, Chinese or the doctrine of any NATO country. Ill add that it is not in Afghan or Saudi doctrine since I taught that nor is it in Iraqi doctrine since I have good friends who taught that.

  • James

    “And mac users.” Haha, that last bit got me.

  • Rob Elliott

    little bit.. but might be the wrong place and time ;)

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Thanks. I always appreciate being told when I might be erring in comprehension or expression.
    I read it in a government military legal resorce. I don’t know if doctrine is the same as law and I don’t know if what I read a few years ago has changed or not.

    The page was relating to enemy subversives and propogandists. It said they’re to be treated as enemy combatants but wasn’t more specific then that. That doesn’t mean it’s US policy to shoot such people on sight. I assume it meant apprehend and imprison.

    That indicated to me a certain stance in all military that there is a fuzzy line between enemy soldiers and what is variably considered to be “enemy media”. That’s what I meant by standard. If you are a professional in this field I redily concede that your undertanding of “standard” in this context is most likely more precise than mine.

    This guy certainly didn’t make a distinction between western military and a western civilian journalist in seeking vengence (as he claims – it was being investigated but not yet confirmed in the article I read) .

    If I missremembered what I read then what exactly is the proper procedure for dealing with enemy propogandists and enemy media in a theater of operations? It’s very pertinant to this site and might even make for a good article.

    If there is something to what I said (or not) then you are in an excellent position to investigate and discuss how this issue is actually dealt with on the ground by various actors. Does NATO act differently than US or British forces etc. For instance, the Taliban consider the region’s media to be too “westernized” and worked for the military. This past December they said they were going to start killing journalists over a missquote and the general negative portrayal of them (as if that’s not their own damned fault).

  • Spongebob Nopants

    That was his claim but it was it was still being investigated in the story I read.

  • Spongebob Nopants.

    I was right that someone would react to that on this forum. I was casting about for an example of a subject that inspires overly entheusiastic factioanlism that could be understood in this environment. I don’t really understand religious nuts but we all have experience with people who are entheusiastic about brands because they’re emotionally invested in them rather than making decisions from the perspective of rational self interest.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Some facts from other articles on this:

    The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the Elections.

    These journalists were with a convoy working on the election.

    The Taliban had threatened in December to start killing journalists. They’re angry about a supposed missquote and that the public didn’t react positively when they shot Malala, a 14 year old girl who blogged in support of women’s education. They blame the media. They composed a list of journalists and outlets to be targeted.
    Cathy Gannon has written at least one article about Malala.

    The Taliban has recently killed two other journalists.

    The shooter was known for his extreme anti western views.

    With all that in mind, it becomes no longer believable that it was an attack of opportunity in responce to NATO supposedly killing his family. It’s part of the Taliban’s string of attacks on journalists.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Update Kathy Gannon wrote at least 3 stories about Malala and maybe more. The murdered photojournalist had photos in at least two of those stories for AP. This was an assassination of a journalist for doing her job.

  • Rob S

    There are only two types of people on a battlefield – combatants and non-combatants. If you are armed, you are a combatant. Media are treated no differently than any other non-combatant under the Law of Land War. What the Taliban does is their own business and they will be held accountable for their actions. Do not project the actions of criminals on members of the Profession of Arms.

  • Rob S

    I think you are confusing psychological warfare and information operations for media. “Baghdad Bob” was seized and arrested for his role in information operations. He is a free (and alive) man today.

  • Rob Elliott

    Try to stop watching and reading news from FOX.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Thank’s for the clarifications. I never intended to imply that US soldiers shoot non combatants or treat media as anything other than objective observers. Reporters are in no physical danger from Western troops. But it can’t be denied that other actors can often consider ostensibly objective journalists to be enemy media.
    I read up and on this specific situation and that’s exactly what it appears to have been. Not a random expression of rage.
    The Taliban made a list of jouranlists to be targeted because they were unhappy with their depiciton in the media. Coverage of the Malala story and the resulting negative reaction was one of the things they were angry about.
    These journalists have done several stories about Malala for prominant news outlets. Of all the people in the convoy, the shooter picked them.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    The journalists were shot because of stories they did about the Taliban’s attempted murder of a schoolgirl who blogged about female education. And/or because the Taliban has vowed to disrupt the elections.
    The taliban said in december that they made a list of journalists to be targeted because they were angry about how they were being depicted. Coverage of the Malala story, and the resulting negative responce towards them, was one of the things they were angry about.
    Of all the people in the convoy he picked them.
    This wasn’t because of a personal beef like the shooter says.

  • Rob Elliott

    There is no evidence of that at all. The AP nor any other reputable new source has made that claim.

    It is odd to kill journalists like this, and normally the Taliban would take credit for it, which they have not.

    You bias and attempt to turn this into some reason to fuel hate, racism and violence is not a good thing.

  • Ken Elliott

    That was a heartless statement.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    I don’t watch Fox. It’s USA today for cranky people. Afganistan authorities said they were still investigating the validity of his claims. I fail to see the bias in repeating what Afgani authorities said to the press.
    You are still free to take the statment made by a man who just shot two women at face value.
    I however, knowing that post attack propoganda dissemination is a vital part of many terrorist attacks, would be inclined to take anything said by this murderer with a grain of salt.

  • Rob Elliott

    It is called police work, even the Afghan police do it… as has been stated, there has been stated, the Taliban has not taken credit for it, in fact they have said they aren’t involved.

    There has been no new information about the slaying in well over a week, it is safe to assume that his story checked out, or anything other then that story is the truth.

    You are the one that have added a second narrative. His story fits everything I know about the region. It is more likely that his story is true, then this is in some way involved in the elections the next day, with the Taliban taking no credit.

    Add to that no major attacks happened anywhere else. This was an isolated issue, and likely is what he said it was.

    I might have agreed if there had been any other major attacks around the same time.

    In fact these elections have went off fairly violence free. (relatively speaking) a few bombs on the 7th.. and again the Taliban denied involvement.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    It’s not normal for terrorists to take credit for attacks. That only happens in 14% of cases.
    The evidence is that the taliban SAID they were going to start killing journalists and that they have recently killed two. They provided the proof before it even happened.

    They wanted to kill journalists because they were angry about the reportage of the Malala story, of which these reporters wrote at least three.
    I don’t need to be spoonfed “evidence” when I already know how to read.
    The only thing being “fueled” here is related to the Taliban. Now why oh why oh why should that bother you?