Gunmen Kill Director of Women's Affairs in Afghanistan

Two gunmen on a motorbike killed the provincial director of Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs outside her home Monday in apparent retribution for her efforts to help educate women, officials said.

Safia Ahmed-jan was slain outside the front gate of her home in this southern Afghan city as she was walking to her office, said Tawfiq ul-Ulhakim Parant, senior adviser to the women's ministry in Kabul.

Aleem Sidique, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said the U.N. was "appalled at this senseless murder."

"What we need to see in Afghanistan is peace, development and progress," Sidique said. "We share the sentiment of the majority of Afghan people who are appalled at this killing."

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Ahmed-jan was known for being an active proponent of women's rights in this former Taliban stronghold, a region where insurgents have turned increasingly violent the last several months.

Her secretary said one of Ahmed-jan's most successful projects was running trade schools. "She was always trying her best to improve education for women," Abdullah Khan said.

In Kandahar alone, Ahmed-jan had opened six schools where almost 1,000 women learned how to bake and sell their goods at market. She had also opened tailoring schools for women, and clothes made there found their way to Western markets, Khan said.

Taliban holdouts have stepped up attacks this year, particularly in the country's south. The fighters are increasingly targeting civilians and using insurgent tactics like suicide and roadside bombs.

The Taliban, which was ousted from power after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, follows an ultraconservative ideology. When the regime ran the country women were banned from schools and couldn't leave their homes without a male escort.

In other violence, a police vehicle hit a roadside bomb Monday in eastern Afghanistan near the border between Khost and Paktia provinces, killing two police officers and wounding eight, said Khalil Amin Zada, commander of border police in Khost province.

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Two militants were killed outside Khost city when a bomb exploded prematurely in their car, said Gen. Mohammed Ayub, the provincial police chief. The two were planning to carry out a bombing in the town. There were no other casualties.

Some 20 militants attacked the house of a district chief in neighboring Paktika province late Sunday, killing him, said Sayed Jamal, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Authorities searched for the perpetrators Monday, recovering the district chief's vehicle and detaining nine people for questioning, Jamal said.

Suspected Taliban militants, meanwhile, attacked and destroyed a medical clinic in Yaqoubi district of the eastern Khost province on Sunday, Ayub said.