x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Mental illness, poverty' haunted Afghan policewoman who killed American

The Afghan policewoman suspected of killing a US contractor at police headquarters in Kabul suffered from mental illness and was driven to suicidal despair by poverty, her children said.

KABUL // The Afghan policewoman suspected of killing a US contractor at police headquarters in Kabul suffered from mental illness and was driven to suicidal despair by poverty, her children said.

The woman was identified by authorities as Narges Rezaeimomenabad, a 40-year-old grandmother and mother of three. She moved to Afghanistan from Iran 10 years ago and married an Afghan man.

On Monday morning, she loaded a pistol in a bathroom at the police compound, hid it in her long scarf and shot a US police trainer, apparently becoming the first Afghan woman to carry out such an attack.

Narges also tried to shoot police officials after killing the American. Luckily for them, her pistol jammed. Her husband is also under investigation.

Her son Sayed, 16, and daughter Fatima, 13, described how they tried to call their parents 100 times after news broke of the shooting, then waited in vain for them to come home.

They recalled Narges's severe mood swings, and how at times she beat them and even pulled out a knife on one occasion. "She was usually complaining about poverty. She was complaining to my father about our conditions. She was saying that my father was poor," Sayid said in an interview in their damp, cold two-room cement house.

On the floor beside him were his mother's prescriptions and a thick plastic bag filled with pills she tried to swallow to end the misery about a month ago. On another occasion, she cut her wrist with a razor, Sayed said.

"My father was usually calm and sometimes would say that she was guilty too because it wasn't a forced marriage. They fell in love and got married."

At times, Narges would try to focus on building her children's confidence, telling them to be guided by the Quran, to tackle life's problems.

Sayed and Fatima said she never spoke badly of the US presence in Afghanistan or of President Hamid Karzai's government.

Neighbour Mohammad Ismail Kohistani was dumbfounded to hear on the radio that Afghan officials were combing Narges' phone records to try to determine whether Al Qaeda or the Taliban could have brainwashed her into carrying out a mission.

But he was acutely aware of her mental problems and often heard her scream at her husband, whose low-level job in the crime investigation unit of the police brought home little cash.

Kohistani, who operates a small sewing shop with battered machines, never imagined his neighbour could be accused of a high-profile attack that raised new questions about the direction of an unpopular war.

"I became very depressed and sad," said Kohistani.