No one has yet claimed responsibility for the shooting of Safia Ama Jan.
Relatives say she was getting into a car in front of her home in the city of Kandahar and was about to go to her office when the gunmen attacked on motorcycles.
A man claiming to be a spokesman for the Taliban, who identified himself as Mullah Hayat Khan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location today that Taliban fighters killed Ama Jan because she worked for the government.
"These gunmen on motorcycles attacked her in front of her house as she was leaving her home for her office. She was killed instantly and her driver was wounded," Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for Kandahar's provincial governor, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.Working For Women's Rights
Ama Jan had worked for nearly five years at her provincial government post -- taking up the job in December 2001 just days after the remnants of the Taliban regime fled their strongholds in Kandahar city.
During the rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s, she had been banned from doing any work outside of her home. But during the years before the Taliban's rise to power, Ama Jan had been a teacher at girls schools in Kandahar.
Even before the claim of responsibility by the purported Taliban spokesman, authorities in Kandahar suspected that Taliban militants targeted her because of her prominent role as a reformer and an advocate for greater women's rights.
UN officials in Kabul quickly condemned the attack. Alim Siddique, a spokesman the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said: "UNAMA is appalled at this senseless murder of an Afghan woman who was simply working for peace, development, and progress in Afghanistan and to ensure that all Afghan women play a full and equal part in Afghan society."Violence In Kandahar
In a separate incident, the chief of the Sheikhullahbad district of Paktika Province was killed overnight by a group of gunmen. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says the attackers raided the home of Wakil Adam Khan late on September 24, stealing a car and a motorcycle after killing the district chief.
Taliban fighters have killed numerous provincial officials and progovernment clerics in southern Afghanistan during the past two years.
In the last six months, Kandahar Province has become the center of a battle between Taliban fighters and NATO-led troops who have been deployed to southern Afghanistan under a UN mandate to support the central government in Kabul.
In other news, the U.S. military says that
ground troops and attack helicopters killed 10 suspected Taliban
insurgents in eastern Afghanistan on September 25.
Five other insurgents fled from the scene of the clash, in the Sharan district of Paktika Province.
(RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Javed Ahmad Wafa contributed to this report from Kandahar.)