Insurgents kill head of women's affairs in Kandahar

Afghan president condemns shooting

September 26, 2006|By Kim Barker | Kim Barker,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The provincial head of the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kandahar was fatally shot in front of her house yesterday as she was leaving for work, officials said.

Safia Ama Jan, who was about 65, is the first female official killed by Taliban-led insurgents since the fall of the regime in late 2001. Gunmen riding motorcycles shot her four times, including once in the head, said Mohammad Nader, the head nurse at Kandahar's main hospital.

"The enemies of Afghanistan did this, the ones who do not want peace in Afghanistan," said Zemeri Bashary, an Interior Ministry spokesman. "They don't even hesitate to kill women."

Iraqi-style terrorist tactics are being used by insurgents, who in recent months have mounted their biggest challenge to the U.S.-backed government since the Taliban fled. In recent weeks, insurgents have stepped up suicide attacks on international troops and killed the governor of Paktia province.

Kandahar, the one-time headquarters of the Taliban, has been particularly hard hit. On Friday, insurgents attacked a bus carrying construction workers in the troubled southern city, killing 19 of them.

The attack yesterday morning seemed to indicate the resolve of insurgents to continue anti- government attacks through the holy month of Ramadan, which began Saturday. It also showed that women are not immune from attack. Under the Taliban, most women were not allowed to work or leave the house without a male escort.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, on a visit to Washington, condemned the killing. "The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to kill those people who are working for the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan," he said in a statement released in Kabul.

Ama Jan, a longtime advocate for women, joined the women's ministry soon after the fall of the Taliban. Her husband was paralyzed, and she needed to work. In her spare time, she read the Quran at a funeral home for women to earn extra money, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Kandahar governor.

"She had so many economical problems at her house," Ahmadi said. "I don't know how her husband will make a living.

"She did not have personal enmity with anyone," he said. "She was such a kind woman. She was a teacher."

Her secretary, Abdullah Khan, told the Associated Press that one of Ama Jan's most successful projects was running trade schools. In Kandahar, she opened six schools that taught almost 1,000 women how to bake and sell their goods. She also opened tailoring schools for women.

"She was always trying her best to improve education for women," he said.

Kim Barker writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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