A SENIOR female police officer in Afghanistan’s violent Helmand province has died after being attacked by gunmen on Sunday, the second top woman officer to die there this year.
Sub-Inspector Negar, who like many Afghans goes by one name, was buying grass for her lambs outside her home on Sunday when two gunmen drove up on a motorbike and fired at her, said Omar Zawak, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand province. She suffered a bullet wound to the neck, and the attackers got away.
Doctors tried to save her. But police spokesman Fareed Ahmad Obaidi said she died early yesterday morning. Her body, wrapped in a worn green blanket, was placed on a stretcher and taken to a dusty desert cemetery in a pol-ice ambulance. Negar’s funeral was attended by colleagues and family members, many vowing revenge on the attackers.
“They have given us warning that one of us will be killed every three months and we will be killed one by one,” fellow policewoman Malalai, who also goes by one name, said.
She did not say who was behind the killing, but the Taleban are believed to be responsible for many of the recent assaults on Afghan women. The insurgents have not admitted the attack on Negar.
Negar was the top policewoman in Helmand province, and worked in its criminal investigation department in Lashkar Gah city. She had taken over the duties of Islam Bibi, a well-known police officer who was shot dead in July by unknown gunmen. Bibi had told reporters her own relatives had threatened her for holding the job.
Negar’s son-in-law, Faizullah Khan, said that she was 41 and had a son and a daughter, and that she had worked for the police in the early 1990s before the Taleban Islamist movement took over the country and banned women from working.
“She was like a mother to me, and I learned so many things from her,” Mr Khan said.
Her son, police officer Hamid Khan, vowed to find her killers. “I will serve my elders and people, my sisters and my brothers till the last drop of blood in my body. They should not believe that it is the end,” he said of the killers.
Ms Negar’s family has included several police officers, including her son, and a brother and her relatives had not objected to her work, the son-in-law said. However, she had been getting phone threats from people claiming to be with the Taleban, who have been waging an insurgency since being toppled from power in 2001.
Earlier this month, a female MP held captive for about four weeks was freed by the Taleban in exchange for several detained militants. The Taleban said the freed prisoners were “four innocent women and two children”.
In August, insurgents ambushed the convoy of a female Afghan senator, seriously wounding her in the attack and killing her eight-year-old daughter and a bodyguard.
Female police officers seem to be a favourite target of insurgents, and several have been threatened or killed in the past few years. Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar, who worked in southern Kandahar province and was perhaps the best-known female police officer in the country, was shot dead by the Taleban in 2008.
According to a report released earlier this month by Oxfam, efforts to recruit more women into Afghanistan’s police force have been met with limited success. In 2005, the force employed just 180 women out of 53,400 personnel, the report said. By July 2013, that had risen to 1,551 policewomen out of 157,000.