Afghanistan: women’s rights defender assassinated

Still cheering on the heroic Afghan resistance? From Index on Censorship, Sept. 26:

A senior Afghan official working for women’s rights has been shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen. She was the highest placed female official to be assassinated in Afghanistan in the five years since the Taliban were ousted from power.

Safia Amajan, 65, had served as chief of the women’s affairs department in Kandahar Province for five years, working for women’s rights and education and vocational training. A former teacher and high school principal, she was well known and much liked in Kandahar. She was shot on her way to work on 25 Saeptember. “It is a very tragic loss,” Sonja Bachmann, a United Nations political officer told the New York Times. “She did a good job, she worked in a very low-key way and worked hard to raise awareness about women’s issues.”

Immediately followed by… From AP:

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide bomber killed 18 people outside a provincial governor’s compound Tuesday, including several Muslim pilgrims set to travel to Mecca — another in a series of attacks directed at senior figures in President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government.

The blast at the doorstep of Helmand Gov. Mohammed Daoud Safi’s compound came on the same day a bombing against a NATO patrol in the Kabul area killed an Italian soldier and a child, and two weeks after militants assassinated a governor in eastern Afghanistan who had been a Karzai confidant.

Safi was inside the compound in Lashkar Gah but was not injured. Karzai was in Washington on Tuesday, meeting with President Bush. (Full story)

Afghan soldiers stopped the bomber at the compound’s security gate, where he detonated his explosives, said the governor’s spokesman, Ghulam Muhiddin. The attacker had been walking toward a vehicle of the private military contractors who provide security for Safi, said Squadron Leader Jason Chalk, a NATO spokesman.

Nine Afghan soldiers and nine civilians were killed, said Rahmatullah Mohammdi, director of the hospital in Lashkar Gah. Seventeen people were wounded, he said.

Among the civilians waiting outside the compound were pilgrims seeking permission to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Muhiddin said. The main mosque in Lashkar Gah is across from the compound.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for Taliban affairs in southern Afghanistan, contacted The Associated Press and said the militant group was responsible for the attack. Ahmadi’s exact ties to the militants are not known.

Militants have stepped up attacks in southern Afghanistan in recent months, including the use of roadside and suicide bombs. Twenty-one people were killed in Lashkar Gah in August by a suicide bomber, and last week militants killed 19 construction workers riding on a bus in neighboring Kandahar province.

See our last posts on Afghanistan and Afghan women’s struggles.