Conflict Zones

Two Brave Journalists In Afghanistan

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, shown here in 2005, was killed Friday in Khost, Afghanistan. AP reporter Kathy Gannon was injured. Both have covered Afghanistan for many years. i i

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, shown here in 2005, was killed Friday in Khost, Afghanistan. AP reporter Kathy Gannon was injured. Both have covered Afghanistan for many years. Peter Dejong/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Dejong/AP
Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, shown here in 2005, was killed Friday in Khost, Afghanistan. AP reporter Kathy Gannon was injured. Both have covered Afghanistan for many years.

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, shown here in 2005, was killed Friday in Khost, Afghanistan. AP reporter Kathy Gannon was injured. Both have covered Afghanistan for many years.

Peter Dejong/AP

Anja Niedringhaus was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. Kathy Gannon has covered Afghanistan for more than 25 years, longer than any other Western reporter.

The two AP journalists knew their way around dangerous places and shared a special gift for finding the humanity in the most war-ravaged places, something that shines through instantly in Niedringhaus' photos and Gannon's reporting.

  • Afghan day laborer Zekrullah, 23, takes a break after preparing kilns to fire the bricks at a factory on the outskirts of Kabul in 2013. The photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed while covering elections in Afghanistan on Friday.
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    Afghan day laborer Zekrullah, 23, takes a break after preparing kilns to fire the bricks at a factory on the outskirts of Kabul in 2013. The photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed while covering elections in Afghanistan on Friday.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan women beg in the street for money in the center of Kandahar on March 12. Kandahar, the capital of the province with the same name, is the birthplace of the hard-line Islamic militant movement that held power in the country for five years until it was ousted in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
    Hide caption
    Afghan women beg in the street for money in the center of Kandahar on March 12. Kandahar, the capital of the province with the same name, is the birthplace of the hard-line Islamic militant movement that held power in the country for five years until it was ousted in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Injured U.S. Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter in 2011.
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    Injured U.S. Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter in 2011.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan army soldiers participate in morning exercises at a training facility on the outskirts of Kabul in November 2013.
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    Afghan army soldiers participate in morning exercises at a training facility on the outskirts of Kabul in November 2013.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Iraqi Shiite Muslim stands among others during Friday prayers in Baghdad's Shiite shrine in Kazemiya in 2003.
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    An Iraqi Shiite Muslim stands among others during Friday prayers in Baghdad's Shiite shrine in Kazemiya in 2003.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Hundreds of U.S. Marines gather at Camp Commando in Kuwait during a visit by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, 2002.
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    Hundreds of U.S. Marines gather at Camp Commando in Kuwait during a visit by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, 2002.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • A band member with the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division walks across Baghdad's 14th July Bridge in October 2003.
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    A band member with the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division walks across Baghdad's 14th July Bridge in October 2003.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Iraqi child carrying a sink passes by a British tank in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.
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    An Iraqi child carrying a sink passes by a British tank in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Iraqi women reach out with empty water containers as British soldiers arrive to supply the outskirts of Basra with drinking water in 2003.
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    Iraqi women reach out with empty water containers as British soldiers arrive to supply the outskirts of Basra with drinking water in 2003.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Relatives and friends of Palestinian farmer Bahgat Abu Dakai, who was killed with a single bullet by Israeli troops while farming near the border fence between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip, in December 2007.
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    Relatives and friends of Palestinian farmer Bahgat Abu Dakai, who was killed with a single bullet by Israeli troops while farming near the border fence between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip, in December 2007.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Ali Mohammed, a 3-month-old Iraqi boy, cries during his diarrhea treatment in the General Teaching Hospital for Children in Baghdad in 2004. A small copy of the Quran lies on his pillow.
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    Ali Mohammed, a 3-month-old Iraqi boy, cries during his diarrhea treatment in the General Teaching Hospital for Children in Baghdad in 2004. A small copy of the Quran lies on his pillow.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan Shiites beat themselves with chains and blades in a ritual ahead of the Ashura holiday outside the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul in November 2013.
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    Afghan Shiites beat themselves with chains and blades in a ritual ahead of the Ashura holiday outside the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul in November 2013.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Lance Cpl. Blas Trevino of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, clutches his rosary beads as he is rescued onto a medevac helicopter. He was shot in the stomach outside Sangin, in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, in June 2011.
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    Lance Cpl. Blas Trevino of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, clutches his rosary beads as he is rescued onto a medevac helicopter. He was shot in the stomach outside Sangin, in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, in June 2011.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • U.S. Marines of the 1st Division take position on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 8, 2004.
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    U.S. Marines of the 1st Division take position on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 8, 2004.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Afghan carpet seller holds up a framed carpet depicting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his store in Kabul on March 30.
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    An Afghan carpet seller holds up a framed carpet depicting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his store in Kabul on March 30.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Afghan man drags a sheep home after buying it at a market ahead of the Eid festival in 2009.
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    An Afghan man drags a sheep home after buying it at a market ahead of the Eid festival in 2009.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan polio victim Musa, 15, is accompanied by his older brother, Nordahan, at a rehabilitation center in Kabul in 2012.
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    Afghan polio victim Musa, 15, is accompanied by his older brother, Nordahan, at a rehabilitation center in Kabul in 2012.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • A girl reaches out to greet a Pakistani policeman securing the road outside Kainat Riaz's home in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan, in 2012. Security stepped up after Kainat was wounded by the same Taliban gunman who shot Malala Yousufzai and 13-year-old Shazia Ramazan on Oct. 8 on their way home from school.
    Hide caption
    A girl reaches out to greet a Pakistani policeman securing the road outside Kainat Riaz's home in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan, in 2012. Security stepped up after Kainat was wounded by the same Taliban gunman who shot Malala Yousufzai and 13-year-old Shazia Ramazan on Oct. 8 on their way home from school.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan female prisoners in 2013 in their cell at Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, in Kabul. The majority of the women are serving sentences of up to seven years for leaving their husbands, refusing to accept a marriage arranged by their parents, or choosing to leave their parents' home with a man of their choice, all so-called “moral” crimes.
    Hide caption
    Afghan female prisoners in 2013 in their cell at Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, in Kabul. The majority of the women are serving sentences of up to seven years for leaving their husbands, refusing to accept a marriage arranged by their parents, or choosing to leave their parents' home with a man of their choice, all so-called “moral” crimes.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Afghan prisoner Fauzia stares out of the prison bars at Badam Bagh in 2013. Fauzia is the oldest woman in jail and has served seven years. She will serve a 17-year sentence for killing her husband and her daughter-in-law.
    Hide caption
    Afghan prisoner Fauzia stares out of the prison bars at Badam Bagh in 2013. Fauzia is the oldest woman in jail and has served seven years. She will serve a 17-year sentence for killing her husband and her daughter-in-law.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • Ansam Rahel, 10, displays a head injury she sustained when Israeli troops shelled a U.N. school where she and her family had sought refuge from Gaza fighting in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, in January 2009.
    Hide caption
    Ansam Rahel, 10, displays a head injury she sustained when Israeli troops shelled a U.N. school where she and her family had sought refuge from Gaza fighting in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, in January 2009.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Afghan man and boy listen to music from an iPod given to them by German ISAF soldiers during a long-term patrol in Yaftal e Sofla, in the mountainous region of Feyzabad, east of Kunduz, Afghanistan, in September 2009.
    Hide caption
    An Afghan man and boy listen to music from an iPod given to them by German ISAF soldiers during a long-term patrol in Yaftal e Sofla, in the mountainous region of Feyzabad, east of Kunduz, Afghanistan, in September 2009.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP
  • An Afghan man watches his pigeons after feeding them in Kabul in March 2012.
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    An Afghan man watches his pigeons after feeding them in Kabul in March 2012.
    Anja Niedringhaus/AP

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They were working together Friday, as they had many times before. By their standards, it seemed a relatively benign assignment: watching Afghan election workers make preparations near the eastern city of Khost for Saturday's presidential poll.

They were sitting in the back of their station wagon when a police commander named Naqibullah walked up to the vehicle, shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," and opened fire with his AK-47, the AP reported.

Niedringhaus, 48, was killed instantly. Gannon, 60, was hit in the arm, according to her husband. She was flown to Bagram, the huge U.S. military base north of Kabul, and was in stable condition.

Gannon is a journalistic institution in Afghanistan. A Canadian who arrived in the region in 1988, she began covering Afghanistan's turmoil when the Soviet army still occupied the country.

From her base in Islamabad, Pakistan, she sneaked into Afghanistan with rebel fighters during this period, walking with them for days through the high mountain passes to cross the border and get glimpses of the war. On one trip, her group ran out of water and nearly perished from dehydration.

She has covered every twist and turn in Afghanistan since then.

When the Taliban came to power in 1996, Gannon was among the few Western reporters who continued to go to Afghanistan on a regular basis and report on the impact that Taliban policies had on ordinary Afghans, particularly women and girls.

She never pulled her punches when reporting on the Taliban, and yet was so well connected, she continued to receive visas to get into the country. Perhaps the most striking example of this came after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by al-Qaida, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan that began the following month.

Gannon was the first and one of the few Western journalists who received a visa, and was able to cover the war from Kabul while the Taliban were still in control of the capital.

Asked why she was allowed in, Gannon said:

"I spent a lot of time on the front lines. I was there all the time and one former Taliban, who has since been killed, said to me, 'You have been here through everything.' I think that is what you have to do to gain their respect; convince them of your courage and make allies of them."

Fueled by a fierce determination — and perhaps a dozen cups of coffee a day — she has continued to doggedly cover Afghanistan in the nearly 13 years since the fall of the Taliban. She distilled her vast reporting in a book, I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan.

Gannon is also renowned for her hospitality, opening her home in Islamabad to the many visiting journalists who came to the region to report on Pakistan and Afghanistan. She's hosted countless dinners for journalists and her well-placed sources, allowing them to compare notes from places where access was difficult, if not impossible, due to the dangers of traveling in many parts of Afghanistan.

Niedringhaus, a German native, had been covering Afghanistan and other wars for some two decades, including Iraq, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She was known for her ability to get deeply personal portraits of both the combatants and the civilians in the conflicts.

She was among a team of AP photographers who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for covering the Iraq War and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2006-'07.

As AP's Angela Charlton wrote of Niedringhaus:

"Niedringhaus leaves behind a body of work that won awards and broke hearts. She trained her camera on children caught between the front lines, yet who still find a place to play. She singled out soldiers from their armies as they were confronted by death, injuries and enemies' attacks."

Greg Myre, the international editor for NPR.org, worked with Kathy Gannon in the AP's Islamabad bureau from 1993-'95.

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