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Drapet på kvinnesaksforkjemperen Safia Amajan mandag er et alvorlig slag for afghanernes og vår frihet. Det er modige kvinner som Amajan som Taliban frykter og hater mest. Hvis mennesker som henne får arbeide i fred og åpne skoler og yrkesopplæring for kvinner, har de ingen sjanse til å gjenerobre makten. Derfor måtte hun dø.

Mennesker som Amajan er de viktigste i kampen om «hearts and minds». Uten folk som henne blir den militære kampen langt tyngre. Det er på tide vi blir klar over hva kampen står om. Hvis kampen mot Taliban skal vinnes, må mennesker som Amajan kunne arbeide trygt. Nå sprer frykten seg.

A senior Afghan official specializing in women’s rights was gunned down here on her way to work on Monday morning by suspected Taliban gunmen. It was the highest-level assassination of a woman in Afghanistan in the five years since the Taliban were ousted from power.

Safia Amajan, 65, had served as chief of the women’s affairs department in Kandahar Province for five years, working for women’s rights and education and vocational training. A former teacher and high school principal, she was well known and much liked in Kandahar.

«It is a very tragic loss,» said Sonja Bachmann, a United Nations political officer who knew Ms. Amajan well. «She did a good job, she worked in a very low-key way and worked hard to raise awareness about women’s issues.»

A spokesman claiming to speak for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing in a telephone call, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of women gathered at the city’s main Shiite mosque, where Ms. Amajan’s body lay wrapped in a white shroud decorated with golden Koranic script, to mourn her loss. «There is no security for anyone now in Kandahar,» one woman said, sobbing through her veil.

Ms. Amajan was shot as she was walking from her house up a narrow street to the main road shortly after 7 a.m., said shopkeepers in the area.

A gunman shot her four times with a pistol, said Muhammad Haidar, an official who worked in her office.

Her nephew, Muhammad Asif, 45, said that no one reported seeing the gunmen. «A carpenter was close to the scene and heard the shots and he called people,» he said. Her husband also heard the shooting, came out of their house and found her lying in the street, Mr. Asif said.

The police were looking for two men who escaped by motorcycle, said the provincial governor, Asadullah Khaled, who went to the crime scene. The police found tracks of the motorcycle driving away from the scene, he said.

Ms. Amajan preferred to take a taxi or public transport, even though her office had cars and drivers, her nephew said. «She wanted to keep a low profile,» he said. «We wanted her to come and live with us in town, but she used to say, ‘If it’s God’s will, they will take me anywhere.’ «

Mr. Haidar said that she had not received specific threats but that everyone in the office knew of the danger posed by the Taliban, who have in the past attacked teachers and government officials. In another recent high-level assassination, a suicide bomber killed the governor of Paktia Province.

But to gun down a woman in the street, in this strictly conservative tribal society, is rare and shocking to many, and it has reinforced the fear in this southern city, which was once the Taliban spiritual headquarters, at the continuing violence and growing Taliban threats. A United Nations official noted that five people were kidnapped Sunday in the city.

«People are scared, of course,» Mr. Haidar said. «How can we feel secure when the head of our department is killed in front of her house?»