Gunmen kill head of Japan aid agency in Afghanistan

Nangarhar police said they were searching for the attackers who fled the scene and that an investigation was under way

Nangarhar police said they were searching for the attackers who fled the scene and that an investigation was under way

A Japanese physician and aid worker in eastern Afghanistan died of his wounds after an attack Wednesday (Dec 4) that also killed five Afghans, including the doctor's bodyguards, the driver and a passenger, a hospital spokesman said.

Officials told RFE/RL on December 4 that gunmen opened fire at a vehicle carrying Tetsu Nakamura, a 73-year-old physician who headed a Japanese charity focused on improving irrigation and agriculture in Afghanistan, in the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

President Ghani's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, condemned the killing, calling it a "heinous act and a cowardly attack on one of Afghanistan's greatest friends".

Two of Nakamura's bodyguards, the driver of the vehicle, and another person were killed on the spot, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar Province's governor.

Nakamura was seriously wounded and was reported to be in critical condition immediately after the attack in the provincial capital.

Nakamura was famous in Japan for his aid work, which dates back decades.

On Nov. 24, a United Nations staff member from the USA was killed and two others were wounded when a blast targeted their vehicle in Kabul.

Before coming to Afghanistan, Nakamura worked in Pakistan where he treated Afghan refugees and also those with leprosy.

Fond of sporting Pashtun dress, Nakamura was an outspoken opponent of the 2001 US-led war that ousted the Taliban regime, whom he defended as able administrators.

"I am not fooled by the justification that violence is necessary for the sake of democracy and modernisation", he wrote in an old posting on his website.

But he quickly realised that he needed to treat the root causes of illness in Afghanistan, as well as the acute symptoms, and identified better irrigation to fight malnutrition as a priority area for his aid work.

Jalalabad resident Auzubillah, who only uses one name, told AFP that he heard shooting at about 8 a.m. "Then the gunmen left the area through a small street". Its side windows appeared to have been shot out, and at least three bullet holes could be seen in the windscreen.

The region is a hotbed of Islamic extremism.

The Taliban have denied any involvement in the attack.

Authorities recently claimed the militants have been territorially defeated in the province - but small cells are thought to remain.

Their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the insurgent group "has no connection" to Wednesday's attack and does not consider the Japanese charity a target in the holy war the Taliban are waging to create an Islamic emirate.

Also in the capital, the Taliban in May targeted Counterpart International, a USA -funded non-profit group working with marginalised people. Nine people were killed in that attack.

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