6 Apr 2014

Foreign journalists shot on eve of election

6:21 am on 6 April 2014

Two foreign journalists have been shot in eastern Afghanistan by a man dressed as a policeman on the eve of presidential elections.

Award-winning German photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and veteran Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon was injured. They had both worked for Associated Press for many years.

The attack on Friday took place in the remote town of Khost near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, the BBC reports.

Travellers halt at a checkpoint in Jalalabad.

Travellers halt at a checkpoint in Jalalabad. Photo: AFP

Afghanistan has boosted security ahead of the vote on Saturday. Some 400,000 Afghan and international troops have been deployed and all roads into the capital Kabul have already been blocked.

President Hamid Karzai has been in power since 2001, but cannot seek a third term in office. There are eight candidates, including former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

It should be the first time that power is democratically transferred, but the BBC reports that pitfalls lie ahead, especially the threat of Taliban violence as Nato prepares to withdraw later this year.

The election is being protected by the biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban. Rings of security have been set up around each polling centre, with police at the centre and hundreds of troops on the outside.

Reporting restrictions are in place, limiting what can be broadcast about the candidates. If nobody wins more than 50% of the vote in this round, a run-off election will be necessary.

The third presidential race since the fall of the Taliban is certain to be marred by rigging, recrimination and violence. The run-up to this historic poll has already been the bloodiest, and fears of electoral fraud are pronounced, the BBC reports.

Correspondents say President Karzai is eager to ensure that his legacy does not include a commitment to allow the continued deployment of international troops in his country. But it is unclear what role he sees for himself after the election.