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Gunmen kill senior Afghan policewoman

A senior Afghan policewoman who had spoken of the need for more female police officers has died in hospital after being shot by gunmen on a motorcycle. Her female predecessor in Helmand province was murdered in July.

Afghanistan's restive province of Helmand lost its second high-profile female police officer on Monday. Sub-Inspector Negar died of neck wounds a day after being shot by unknown assailants while walking along a street near police headquarters.

Negar, 36, who like many Afghans used only one name, was severely wounded by two gunmen riding a motorcycle in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, where insurgent attacks remain commonplace.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the shooting.

Negar and her predecessor, Islam Bibi (pictured above), who was murdered in Lashkar Gah in July, were both portrayed as examples of how opportunities for women had improved in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

Death threats

Before her murder, Bibi had admitted receiving frequent death threats from persons who disapproved of her career, including from her brother.

Regional government spokesman Omar Zawak said Negar had worked for seven years in the Helmand police crime branch.

Women make up just 1 percent of police officers in Afghanistan.

A week ago, the Taliban released an Afghan female politician who had been held hostage for nearly a month.

Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, who had previously worked as a teacher, is one of the 69 female representatives in the 249-seat lower house of the Afghan parliament.

Kakar had been abducted on the main highway from Kabul to Kandahar city. She was handed over to security officials on the outskirts of Ghazni city in exchange for three Taliban fighters and three of their female relatives.

Women's rights highlighted

Donor nations have often highlighted women's rights in Afghanistan and promoted school tuition for girls.

NATO currently has 87,000 troops in Afghanistan, but a major withdrawal and end to combat operations is currently scheduled for next year.

ipj/msh (AFP; dpa, AP)