Taliban kill Afghan woman police officer head of crimes against women

In an attack claimed by the Taliban, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Afghanistan’s most high-profile female police officer on Sunday as she prepared to leave for work in the southern city of Kandahar. The police in the city said she died instantly from gunshot wounds to her head. Her 18-year-old son, driving her car, was seriously wounded and taken to the hospital.

The police officer, Malalai Kakar, who was in her mid-40s with six children, was an iconic figure among women’s groups in Afghanistan and abroad. Often profiled in the Afghan and foreign news media, she was one of the leading totems for the wider freedoms gained by women when the Taliban, with their repressive policies toward women, were ousted from power by an American-led coalition in 2001.

The attack was the latest in a wave of attacks on women across Afghanistan for which the Taliban have claimed responsibility. After scattering in the wake of the 2001 offensive, the Islamic militants have regrouped over the past two years, mounting a new offensive across wide areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. Attacks on women, girls’ schools and organizations working for women’s advancement have become increasingly common.

“We killed Malalai Kakar,” a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, told the news service Agence France-Presse in a telephone call. “She was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target.”

Kakar, with the rank of captain, was head of Kandahar’s department of crimes against women, leading about 10 female officers, and spent her working life tackling theft, domestic violence and murders. She joined the police in the city in 1982, following in the footsteps of her father and brothers, but was forced out after the Taliban captured Kandahar in the mid-1990s and barred all women from working.

She was the first female police officer in the country to return to work after the Taliban were ousted. Her commitment was particularly notable for the fact that it took place in Kandahar, which became the headquarters for the Taliban soon after the movement was formed in the early 1990s. It was there that Taliban leaders first proclaimed the harsh policies that they imposed across wide areas of the country in the years that followed.

Kakar’s killing prompted a wave of tributes. President Hamid Karzai, on a trip to the United States, issued a statement calling the attack “an act of cowardice” committed by “enemies of peace and welfare and reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

The Interior Ministry in Kabul, responsible for the country’s 80,000-strong police, about 700 of them women, called Kakar “a brave hero among women and loyal to her profession,” and said she had been “cowardly martyred.”

The police commander in Kandahar, General Matiullah Qati, said Kakar had continued working despite repeated death threats. “She took a big risk by continuing to work in the current serious situation, and her death will undoubtedly have a negative impact on other women who may have wanted to join the police but now may not dare to,” he said.

The European Union’s mission in Kabul said it was “appalled by the brutal targeting” of the police officer, and added: “Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent.”

Kakar was not the first female official of prominence in Kandahar to be killed. Two years ago, the head of the province’s women’s affairs department was killed in a similar attack by gunmen. In June, a female police officer was shot and killed by gunmen in the western province of Herat, the first fatal attack on a policewoman since the Taliban were toppled.

In another attack in the same region of the country on Sunday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed seven people, including himself, when he attacked two border police vehicles in the main bazaar in Spinbaldak, on the Pakistan border about 80 miles southeast of Kandahar.

Colonel Abdul Razaq, the border police commander in Kandahar, said the blast had killed three policemen and three civilians in the marketplace, and wounded 15 others.

“This is the work of Afghanistan’s enemies, who think nothing of attacking civilians in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said. Noting that the attack came toward dusk, as people were shopping for the food to be eaten at the iftar dinner, which Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan, he added: “This was an un-Islamic act.”

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/29/asia/29afghan.php

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See also: Afghan Police trained in Gender Issues

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