A Japanese aid worker who devoted his career to improving the lives of Afghans has died following an attack in eastern Afghanistan that killed five other people.
Officials told RFE/RL on December 4 that gunmen opened fire at a car carrying Tetsu Nakamura, a 73-year-old physician who headed a Japanese charity focused on improving irrigation and agriculture in Afghanistan, in the provincial capital, Jalalabad.
Two of Nakamura’s bodyguards, the driver of the car, and another person were killed on the spot, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar Province’s governor.
Nakamura was taken to a local hospital with serious wounds and was in the process of being airlifted to a hospital in Bagram, north of Kabul, when he died, officials said.
Police said they were searching for the attackers, who fled the scene.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban said it was not involved.
The assault was the second deadly incident in Afghanistan involving aid workers in recent days and prompted appalled reactions inside and outside the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was "shocked" by Nakamura’s death, while the Afghan presidential office deplored the killing of "one of Afghanistan's greatest friends."
Nakamura, who headed the nongovernmental organization Peace Japan Medical Service, was recently awarded honorary Afghan citizenship by President Ashraf Ghani.
After qualifying as a doctor, Nakamura moved to Pakistan in the 1980s to treat patients with leprosy.
He later headed to Afghanistan, where he opened clinics providing help for leprosy patients and refugees among others.
Nakamura had also heavily been involved in the construction of wells and irrigation in villages where many suffered from cholera and other diseases due to a lack of clean water.
He won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2003, widely regarded as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Mitsuji Fukumoto, an official with Nakamura's organization, told reporters in Tokyo it had "no idea what was the reason behind the attack, whether it was a simple robbery, or whether it was conflict of interest."
Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said it was a “heinous” attack against a man who “dedicated all his life to change the lives of Afghans, worked on water management, dams, and improvement of traditional agriculture in Afghanistan.”
"Aid workers are not targets! Those responsible must be brought to justice," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul tweeted.
The attack comes after a grenade attack on a UN vehicle in Kabul last month killed an American working for the UN and wounded five Afghans.