An Afghan women’s affairs official has been assassinated in Laghman province, just months after her predecessor was blown up by a bomb, while a police chief was killed in a roadside bombing in Herat province.
Najia Siddiqi, the acting director of the women’s affairs department in the eastern province of Laghman, was shot dead by two unidentified men while commuting in a motorised rickshaw on Monday.
“We have launched an investigation and we have sealed off the area where the attack took place and we will very soon capture the attackers,” Laghman police chief Ahmad Sherzad told AFP news agency.
In a separate attack, General Mohammad Musa Rasoli, the provincial police chief of Nimroz, was killed when his vehicle was struck by a bomb in Adraskan district of Herat province, while he was heading to Nimroz on his way to work, officials told Al Jazeera.
Rasoli was seriously wounded in the blast and rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said: “Siddiqi was travelling from home to her office in a rickshaw in the provincial capital of Laghman province.”
“It was possible that she was in this sort of a vehicle to keep a low profile, but nevertheless, the gunmen were able to identify her,” he said.
The US has condemned the assassination of Siddiqi. “Those who killed Siddiqi have no respect for human rights or the safety of the Afghan people,” the US embassy in Kabul said in a press release.
Surge of targeted assassinations
Siddiqitook over from provincial women’s affairs director Hanifa Safi, who was killed when a magnetic bomb attached to her vehicle exploded in July.
“There have been advances in women’s rights in Afghanistan but it remains a very conservative society with conservative attitudes to women particularly in rural areas,” Al Jazeera’s Smith said.
“It’s just that women by the very fact that they are in a job are a higher profile target and therefore, much more vulnerable to attacks,” he said.
“Any government official is a target for the Taliban, although they are yet to claim any particular responsibility for this particular killing.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack.
Orzala Nemat Ashraf, an Afghan human rights campaigner, told Al Jazeera she was shocked to hear about the assassination.
“It clearly indicates that dominance of culture of impunity is working. Five months have passed since Hanifa Safi’s death and still the governor has not answered who killed her. If there is no justice, he or they will keep it up, sadly.”
Earlier this month a young woman still at school who also doubled as a health worker was shot dead as she walked out of her family home in Kapisa province, which borders Laghman.
On Thursday a Taliban suicide bomber with explosives in his underpants wounded the nation’s intelligence chief after entering a tightly-guarded guesthouse by posing as a Taliban peace envoy.
The Afghan government is scrambling to improve security before NATO troops withdraw by the end of 2014. Some Afghans fear another civil war may erupt after the pullout.