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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Afghan women's official shot dead
Safia Amajan
Ms Amajan had been a fierce critic of the Taleban
A leading Afghan official working on women's rights has been shot dead in the southern province of Kandahar.

Safia Amajan, head of the province's women's department, was leaving her home for work when a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire, police said.

She may have been targeted by Taleban militants because of their opposition to women taking part in politics and education, the BBC's Dan Isaacs says.

Hundreds have died in clashes between troops and Taleban fighters this year.

Nato-led forces have been battling a resurgent Taleban militia, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place in the south of the country.

Taleban critic

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack on Safia Amajan.

She had served as head of women's affairs in Kandahar's provincial government since the Taleban government was toppled by US-led forces in 2001.

An eloquent public speaker, Safia Amajan was fierce in her criticism of what she saw as the Taleban's repression of women.

After the US-led invasion in 2001, the former teacher took charge of women's affairs in Kandahar's provincial government.

In a conservative region where most families keep wives and daughters cloistered indoors, she was able to attract hundreds of women to schools and vocational courses.

Her requests for secure official transport and personal bodyguards had not been granted by the government.

At the time of the attack, she was travelling in a taxi.

A spokesman for the UN agency overseeing development in Afghanistan condemned the "senseless murder of a woman who was simply working to ensure that all Afghan women play a full and equal part in the future of Afghanistan".

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber killed the governor of eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province - the highest-ranking official to die in the insurgency.

Abdul Hakim Taniwal was attacked outside his office. The Taleban said it carried out the attack.

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