Gunmen in southern Afghanistan shot dead at least five female airport workers who had previously received death threats from people who disapproved of their careers, officials said.

Their driver was also killed in the attack on Saturday morning.

The women were in a van driving to the airport in the southern Kandahar province when at least three gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at them, provincial spokesman Samim Kheplwak told AFP news agency.

"All the women and their driver aboard the van were killed. The attackers fled the area and we have launched an investigation," he said.

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Kandahar International Airport Director Ahmadullah Faizi said the women, who were employees of a private company, would provide luggage and body search services for female passengers.

The women had been concerned about their security, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Women in Kandahar who work outside their homes have long been at high risk of attack from Taliban and other armed groups.

In December last year, Taliban fighters attacked Kandahar International Airport, killing at least 70 people. 

Afghan women have made giant strides since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, but they are still absent from public life and continue to suffer high levels of violence, oppression and abuse.

The Afghan Attorney General's Office recorded more than 3,700 cases of violence against women in the first eight months of 2016, with 5,000 cases recorded in the whole of the previous year.

Source: News agencies