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High-Profile Afghan Policewoman Assassinated In Kandahar

(RFE/RL) -- Gunmen have shot dead a prominent Afghan policewoman in the southern city of Kandahar, opening fire on the car of Malalai Kakar, head of the city's department of crimes against women, as she was leaving home for work.

Kandahar government spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said Kakar died on the spot; her 18-year-old son was injured and is in a coma.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yosuf Ahmadi, told news agencies that Kakar "was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target." Kandahar is the birthplace of the extremist Taliban movement.

Kakar, a mother of six children in her early 40s, was one of the most high-profile women in the country. She has figured prominently in the national and international media, partly due to a famous episode in which she killed three would-be assassins in a shoot-out.

She was the first woman to rejoin the Kandahar police force after the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. She had been involved in investigating crimes and conducting house searches. She had reportedly received numerous death threats.

Kakar, the most senior policewoman in Kandahar, headed a team of about 10 women police officers. Just a few days ago, she spoke to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Kandahar about the problems of her unit.

"One problem we have is that our sisters [policewomen] do not have any residence," she said. "Their homes are far away or in the areas where security is not good, and so they arrive to their jobs late."

Dangerous Work

Kakar originally joined Kandahar's police force in 1982, following in the footsteps of her father and brothers who were also police officers. When the Taliban regime took over Afghanistan she was prevented from working because women were forced to stay at home.

She is not the first female police officer killed in the country. In June, gunmen shot dead a female police officer, Bibi Hoor, in the western province of Herat.

About 750 police officers have been killed in the past six months, mostly in insurgency-linked violence sweeping the country.

In other news, a government official said that police forces ambushed and killed 17 Taliban insurgents in neighboring Helmand Province on September 27.

More than 4,000 people, including nearly 1,500 civilians, have been killed in Afghanistan's conflicts so far this year.