Prominent female official in Afghanistan assassinated


KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen killed another female Afghan official in the latest in a series of violent attacks on women who promote women’s rights or are involved in activities outside their traditional roles here as homemakers.

The acting director for women’s affairs in the northeastern province of Laghman was shot to death by two gunmen Monday morning as she was on her way to her office. The director, Najia Sediqqi, had been filling in for her predecessor, Hanifa Safi, who was assassinated in Laghman in July by a bomb attached to her car.

No group immediately took responsibility for Sediqqi’s murder.

The Taliban have attacked prominent Afghan women in the past, especially those involved in promoting women’s issues. Sediqqi was killed by shots from AK-47 assault rifles less than two miles from the center of the town where she worked, said Sarhadi Zowak, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Sediqqi’s death came a week after a 22-year-old student named Hanisa was shot to death by gunmen on two motorcycles as she reported for her first day as a volunteer for a polio immunization effort in neighboring Kapisa Province.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered a high-level investigation.

Cases of “extreme or brutal violence against women” have increased in recent months, Afghan Women’s Affairs Minister Husn Banu Ghazanfar said last month. She cited more than 3,500 reported cases of violence against women in Afghanistan in the first six months of this year.

Many cases involve beatings or murders of women by family members, often for running away from arranged marriages. Other young women, including schoolgirls, have been attacked with acid or poison in attempts by the Taliban to prevent them from attending school.

The Taliban also have mounted assassination campaigns against officials of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, focusing on provincial governors and police chiefs, who are symbols of central authority.

Although the government controls urban areas, many rural regions are dominated by the Taliban, who operate shadow governments and court systems.