The Attack

Special tragedy: The assassination fell victim to one of the harshest critics of the Afghanistan war

The U.S. Marine in Falluja who carries a G.I. Joe doll in his backpack for good luck. The two Palestinian boys who play with a phone they had found in the rubble of a house in the Gaza strip. Or U.S. President George Bush who presents a turkey on a platter to his troops during a visit in Baghdad: The photos of Anja Niedringhaus went down in history as icons. As historic documents but also as heartbreakers. Just like the world-renowned photographer‘s unusually rough and irresistibly contagious laugh that no one who has met her, will ever forget.

„None of my close friends who I‘ve lost would say: ,Stop!‘ No one.“

Anja Niedringhaus

Anja Niedringhaus was killed by an Afghan police officer in Khost on April 4, 2014. She and her friend and colleague, the Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon – they are a well-rehearsed duo with war zone experience – want to report about the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan. The trip is carefully planned and the security situation presents no cause for alarm. The two women travel in Eastern Afghanistan‘s province Khost with a convoy of Afghan police and military. They have arrived at the heavily guarded, high-walled police compound, sitting in the back of their vehicle, when the Afghan police commander Naqibullah takes the AK-47 machine gun from a subordinate and empties the magazine into the journalists, yelling „Allahu Akbar“. Anja Niedringhaus is dead on the scene. Her friend Kathy Gannon is critically injured and transported to a hospital. The 25 year-old Afghan police officer Naqibullah doesn‘t resist arrest at the scene. He had been working for the Afghan National Police since 2012 and was trained by U.S. instructors in Mazar-e-Sharif. During his interrogation he says that he acted in revenge for the death of family members from a NATO bombing in the province Parwan, and claims jihad as a justification. On July 22, 2014, a court sentences him to death in a two-hour trial behind closed doors, while the German Federal Attorney‘s office formally begins legal proceedings. A German diplomat calls for the death sentence to be turned into a prison sentence. The German Government as well as the family of Anja Niedringhaus support the request. The argument: „Anja was a pacifist and didn‘t see any point in the death penalty.“ Subsequently, Afghanistan‘s Supreme Court reduces the penalty and sentences the former police officer to 20 years in prison. The tragedy: With his attack, Naqibullah killed one of the staunchest critics of the war in Afghanistan. After only 2 years it became obvious that the influential family of Naqibullah tried to get the murderer released from prison. The relatives exerted pressure upon the authorities in Kabul und threatened both Kathy Gannon and also the family of Nishanuddin Ahingar, who had appeared as a witness in the trial.

Elke Niedringhaus-Haasper