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Afghan Women...s Advocate Slain By Gunmen in High-Level Death

By Carlotta Gall
THE NEW YORK TIMES


KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

A senior Afghan official specializing in women’s rights was gunned down here on her way to work on Monday morning by suspected Taliban gunmen. It was the highest-level assassination of a woman in Afghanistan in the five years since the Taliban was ousted from power.

Safia Amajan, 65, had served as chief of the Woman’s Affairs department in Kandahar for five years, working to improve women’s rights and opportunities for education and vocational training. A former teacher and high school principal, she was well known and much liked in Kandahar.

“It is a very tragic loss,” said Sonja Bachmann, a U.N. political officer who knew Amajan well. “She did a good job, she worked in a very low-key way and worked hard to raise awareness about women’s issues.”

A spokesman claiming to speak for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing in a telephone call, Reuters reported

Hundreds of women gathered at the city’s main Shiite mosque, where her body lay wrapped in a white shroud decorated with golden Quranic script, to mourn her loss. “There is no security for anyone now in Kandahar,” one woman said, sobbing through her veil.

Amajan was shot as she was walking from her house up a narrow street to the main road shortly after 7 a.m., said shopkeepers in a line of shops by the road. A gunman shot her four times with a pistol, said Muhammad Haidar, an official who worked in her office.

Her nephew, Muhammad Asif, 45, said that no one reported seeing the gunmen. “A carpenter was close to the scene and heard the shots and he called people,” he said. Her husband also heard the shooting, came out of their house and found her lying in the street, Asif said.

The police were looking for two men, who escaped by motorcycle, said the provincial governor, Asadullah Khaled, who went to the crime scene himself. The police found tracks of the motorcycle driving away from the scene, he said.

Amajan preferred to take a taxi or public transport so as not to draw attention to herself, even though her office had cars and drivers, her nephew said. “She wanted to keep a low profile,” he said. “We wanted her to come and live with us in town, but she used to say, ‘If it’s God’s will, they will take me anywhere.”’