Gunmen kill five female airport workers in Afghanistan

Unknown killers open fire on van taking women to work.

An Afghan woman stands beside the body of her relative, one of the five female staff of Kandahar Airport, , Afghanistan, killed by gunmen on December 17, 2016. Muhammad Sadiq / EPA
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Kandahar // Gunmen on motorcycles shot dead five women airport workers and their driver in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, underlining the dangers facing employed women in the conservative, conflict-torn country.

The women, employees of a private company that provides luggage and body search services for female passengers, were in a van driving to the airport in Kandahar when three gunmen opened fire at them.

The Kandahar airport director Ahmadullah Faizi said the women had been concerned about their security after receiving death threats from people who disapproved of their career.

The Taliban, which barred women from working outside their homes during its rule from 1996 to 2001, said it was not behind the killings.

Employed women have long faced a high risk of attacks from insurgent groups and religious conservatives. In October last year, gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead a woman working as a rights defender with the United Nations in Kandahar. And in 2013, a top female police officer was shot dead in neighbouring Helmand province as she was travelling to work.

Although Afghan women have made giant strides since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, they are still absent from public life and continue to suffer high levels of violence, oppression and abuse.

The Afghan attorney general’s office recorded more than 3,700 cases of violence against women in the first eight months of this year, compared with 5,000 cases in the whole of last year.

* Agence France-Presse