Suspected Taliban gunmen shot dead a leading women's rights campaigner in Kandahar yesterday in the latest assassination of a government official in the restive southern provinces.Also here:
Women's Affairs director, Safia Ama Jan, was killed on the city outskirts as she left for work yesterday morning. The assailants shot her four times in the head, through a burka, before fleeing.
Ms Ama Jan, 56, has been an advocate for women's rights in Kandahar, the former Taliban headquarters, since the fundamentalists were ousted five years ago. Her murder appeared to mark a return to a strategy of intimidation and assassination after the defeat of Taliban fighters at the hands of a Nato force in western Kandahar this month.
A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, declared that Ms Amajan had been "executed". He said: "We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."And here:
Ms Amajan had taken over the post of women's welfare officer soon after Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, fled with the fall of his regime. With the return of the Taliban, as the "war on terror" moved on to Iraq, aid workers - foreign and Afghan, men and women - were intimidated into leaving the region.
Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee. Her secretary, Abdullah Khan, said: "She was very brave. She was also very hard-working. She was always trying her best to improve education for women."
As well as defying the Taliban, Ms Amajan made the mistake of being successful in what she was doing. In Kandahar alone she had opened six schools where a thousand women had learnt how to make and then sell their goods at the market. She was also instrumental in setting up tailoring schools for women, with some of the products making their way to markets in the West.
"It is a very tragic loss," said Sonja Bachmann, a United Nations political officer who knew Ms. 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."But the marchers in Manchester, including members of the University and College Union it seems, are happy for the women of Afghanistan to be left to the benign attentions of the Taliban. Hold your heads up high, peaceniks, why don't you? (Thanks: RB / JB.)
Hundreds of women gathered at the main Shiite mosque in the town, where her body lay wrapped in a white shroud decorated with golden Koranic script, to mourn her loss. "There is no security for anyone now in Kandahar," one woman said, sobbing through her veil.