Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Malalai Kakar speaking at her office in Kandahar. She was killed by the Taliban as she left for work.
Malalai Kakar speaking at her office in Kandahar. She was killed by the Taliban as she left for work.

Taliban gun down veteran policewoman

Malalai Kakar, head of the city of Kandahar's department of crimes against women, was killed as she left her home.

The most prominent policewoman in Afghanistan was assassinated yesterday, the latest victim of the Taliban insurgency's deliberate campaign of violence against Afghans associated with the fragile reconstruction of the country. Lt Col Malalai Kakar was shot by gunmen outside her home in Kandahar city as she left for work early yesterday. Mrs Kakar, a mother of six, was a 25-year veteran of the police force and head of the department of crimes against women in Kandahar. Her 15-year-old son was also wounded. Her job in Afghanistan's most conservative province, which is in the grip of an insurgency quickly spreading to the rest of the country, made her all the more remarkable and a nationally respected figure.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Ahmed Yousef, claimed responsibility for the murder, AFP news agency reported. "We killed Malalai Kakar. She was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target," he said. Mrs Kakar, believed to be in her early 40s, became a national legend when she killed three would-be assassins in a shoot-out 25 km west of Kandahar, which is also a haven for drug traffickers. Yesterday, members of parliament expressed their sorrow and said her death represented a setback for the cause of women. "We feel a great loss," said Fawzia Kofi, an MP, speaking by telephone from Kabul. "Malalai was quite different because she was working for the police in a risky area. "She knew the risks, but wanted to contribute and bring peace and the rule of law."

Hamid Karzai, the president, condemned the attack, saying in a statement that it was an act of "cowardice" by the "enemies of the peace and welfare and reconstruction of Afghanistan". Members of Afghan civil society, government and security forces such as doctors, journalists and police are targets of Taliban insurgents or extremists associated with the jihadist cause. They receive death threats usually in the form of so-called night letters warning them not to work with foreigners.

Mrs Kakar, who strapped a bandolier of bullets on her five-foot frame every morning before leaving for work, regularly received letters at her home but shrugged them off. In the past six months alone, 700 police officers have been killed. In June, another female police officer, Bibi Hoor, 26 was killed by gunmen on motorcycles in Herat, a western province. Mrs Kofi said the ministry of interior had a campaign to encourage more women to join the police force across the country, but it was difficult persuading families to allow their daughters to do so because of cultural restrictions and security problems. "Malalai was very well-known, and she was a role model," she said. "As head of the department of crimes against women, if there were issues of rape, domestic violence she investigated it. This is a huge job because domestic violence is very common."

There are only a few hundred women who have signed up to join the police, which suffers from rampant corruption. Mrs Kakar was among 11 policewomen in Kandahar. The 80,000-strong force is being built with money and expertise from the West, which makes it a particular target of the Taliban. Mrs Kakar joined the force in the early 1980s with the encouragement of her father and brothers, who were also police officers. When the Taliban came to power in 1996 she ran an underground girls' school, but when it was discovered she fled to Pakistan with her husband and children. In 2001, she returned to Kandahar and resumed her job. She also signed up to the police and became its first female graduate.

She arrested female criminals, ran the women's prison and accompanied male colleagues on drug raids or stakeouts to suspected Taliban enclaves. She searched the female quarters of houses where traffickers or insurgents hid arms and money. Although she expressed her dislike of the burqa, she wore it for work and once showed up for an interview wearing one with a fully loaded AK-47 assault rifle concealed underneath the garment. "It is good for disguising my identity when I'm doing an investigation," she said. But her duties were also like those of a family counsellor. Girls forced into marriage or men seeking a divorce would seek her help. She was known for a typically dark Afghan humour. In 2004 she arrested a woman because her lover had tried and failed to kill the woman's husband with a knife. "She should have made sure her lover had a sharper knife," she said. During a stakeout with more than a dozen male colleagues near a suspected Taliban hideout, the police found themselves overwhelmed by the extremist fighters and abandoned the scene. Mrs Kakar was among a handful who stayed on to fight. Later, she publicly shamed the policemen. "You have long moustaches, but no bravery," she said. The police force frequently find themselves overwhelmed by well-armed insurgents who are offered up to US$700 (Dh2,600) a month to hit targets associated with the central government in Kabul. By contrast, most Afghan police officers are paid about $60 a month. Wazhma Froug, a women's rights activist, said the assassination was part of a wider campaign on the part of the Taliban to discourage women from leaving their homes. hghafour@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by the Associated Press

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National