In separate attacks today, the chief of police for the southwestern province of Nimroz and the acting head of women’s affairs for the eastern province of Laghman were both assassinated. Today’s attacks follow an assassination attempt last week against the head of Afghanistan’s spy agency in Kabul, and the killing of a schoolgirl involved in a vaccination program in Laghman’s neighboring province of Kapisa.
The Nimroz provincial police chief, General Mohammad Musa Rasuli, died when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb as he was traveling home from Herat province, according to the BBC. The attack, which took place in Herat’s Aderskan district, also injured one of Rasuli’s bodyguards, TOLONews reported.
The Taliban later claimed the attack on Rasuli. According to the Associated Press, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the insurgency had tracked and targeted him. “We are continuing to target government officials,” Ahmadi said.
Also killed today was Najia Sediqi, the acting head of women’s affairs in Laghman province, who was shot in the head as she walked to work in the Mazoz district, according to TOLONews. The Laghman provincial security chief said that her attackers were two unknown gunmen riding on a motorcycle, Khaama Press reported. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, according to Khaama Press, Sediqi’s husband “said he knows the assailant gunmen.”
Five months ago, the previous women’s affairs director for Laghman province, Hanifa Safi, was assassinated in Mehtarlam city. She died when a bomb attached to her car exploded; the blast injured 11 others, including her husband, TOLONews noted.
Attacks on females in Afghanistan have increased this year, Afghan Women’s Affairs Minister Husn Banu Ghazanfar said in November, according to the Los Angeles Times. Between January and July, there were than 3,500 reported cases of violence against women in Afghanistan. The increase in attacks comes as Coalition forces are relinquishing security responsibility for large areas of the country before the 2014 withdrawal date.
Just last week, a 16-year-old schoolgirl in neighboring Kapisa province who had volunteered to assist with a polio vaccination program was gunned down by unknown assassins. The government launched an investigation into her death after protests by Afghan women’s groups, according to TOLO. More recently, Kapisa governor Mehrabuddin Safi claimed that the victim was a 36-year-old woman caught in crossfire from a gunfight, despite reports that the victim was in fact a schoolgirl who had already received threats for her work on the polio vaccination campaign.
Some Taliban leaders have opposed polio vaccination campaigns, accusing them of being a front for Western operations to “sterilize Muslims,” and other outrageous claims. Most prominent among those in opposition to the vaccinations is Mullah Fazlullah, who operates in northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, and also opposes education for girls. Fazlullah is behind the recent assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who had the courage to speak out against the Taliban [see Threat Matrix report, Another anti-Taliban leader assassinated in northwestern Pakistan].