KANDAHAR, Sept 16: The top policewoman in Afghanistan’s restive south died on Monday after being shot by assassins, months after her predecessor was gunned down, in the latest attack highlighting the threat to women in public life.

Ms Nigar, who only used one name, was shot on Sunday on the street in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, and died of her wounds in hospital.

“I can confirm that (Ms) Nigar died in the emergency unit of the hospital this morning,” provincial government spokesman Omar Zawak told AFP.

“She died from a bad injury to her neck.” Her predecessor as the most senior woman police officer in Helmand, Lieutenant Bibi Islam, was seen as a high-profile symbol of how opportunities have improved in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted by the US-led invasion in 2001.

But before her murder in July, Ms Islam admitted receiving regular death threats from people who disapproved of her career — including from her own brother.

The deaths in Helmand follow the murder of female police Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar in neighbouring Kandahar province in 2008, and the killing of two successive women’s affairs directors in Laghman province within months last year.

Ms Nigar, 38, was at first expected to survive her injuries after she was shot on Sunday morning as she walked near the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Her killers were riding a motorbike and escaped the scene.

She had worked for seven years in the police crime branch in Helmand.

She was the mother of a son and a daughter and was based at Lashkar Gah airport after reaching the rank of investigator. Before Helmand, she had been posted in the capital Kabul.

After Ms Islam was killed, Ms Nigar told local media that she was not scared of being a policewoman in ultra-conservative Helmand and was determined to continue doing a job she loved.

She said she also had received death threats, but Afghanistan needed more female police officers to protect women who often suffer repression, sexual violence and discrimination.

No one has claimed responsibility for the murders of Ms Islam or Ms Nigar, and no arrests have been made.

Improving the status of women is a key goal of international efforts in Afghanistan, with foreign diplomats often pointing to more female schoolchildren and greater freedom for women as signs of progress.

But donor nations have also raised fears that such advances are at risk as religious groups seek to increase their influence, with presidential elections due in April and 87,000 US-led Nato troops withdrawing next year.—AFP

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