A unit commander identified by authorities as Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled "Allahu Akbar" — God is Great — and fired on them in the back seat with his AK-47, said the freelance videographer, who witnessed the attack, which left the rear door of the car riddled with bullet holes. The officer then surrendered to the other police and was arrested.
While there have been repeated cases in recent years of Afghan police or military personnel opening fire on and killing international troops working with the country's security forces, Friday's attack was the first known insider shooting of journalists.
Past attacks have been carried out by suspected Taliban infiltrators or Afghans who have come to oppose the foreign presence in the country. At their worst, in 2012, there was an average of nearly one a week, killing more than 60 coalition troops and prompting NATO to reduce joint operations with Afghan forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied responsibility for Friday's attack. Khost Provincial Police Chief Faizullah Ghyrat said the 25-year-old attacker confessed to the shooting and told authorities he was from Parwan province, northwest of Kabul, and was acting to avenge the deaths of family members in a NATO bombing there. The claim could not be corroborated and officials said they were still investigating the shooter's background.
Ghyrat said the police commander told authorities he had seen the journalists, decided to act, and then demanded the assault rifle from one of his subordinates.
The shooting came on the eve of Afghanistan's elections for a new president and provincial councils. With international combat forces preparing to withdraw by the end of this year, the country is so unstable that the very fact the vote is being held has been touted as one of the few successes in outgoing President Hamid Karzai's tenure.