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Gunmen extinguish a light for young women

Bomber kills 18 in second attack

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Gunmen on a motorbike yesterday killed an Afghan women's rights activist who ran an underground school for girls during the Taliban's rule -- the latest victim of increasingly brazen militants targeting government officials and schools.

Safia Ama Jan, a provincial director for Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs, was slain outside her home in the southern city of Kandahar as she was on her way to work, said Tawfiq ul-Ulhakim Parant, senior adviser to the women's ministry in Kabul.

``The enemy of Afghanistan killed her, but they should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way," said Fariba Ahmedi, a female member of parliament from Kandahar who joined hundreds of men and women, including the provincial governor, at the funeral at a packed Shi'ite mosque.

The violence continued in Afghanistan this morning. A suicide bomber struck outside the compound of a southern provincial governor in Lashkar Gah, killing 18 people and wounding 17, officials said.

The attacker was stopped by Afghan soldiers at the compound's first security gate, where he detonated his explosive vest, said Ghulam Muhiddin, spokesman for Mohammed Daoud Safi, the Helmand provincial governor. Safi, who was inside the compound, was not injured.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. In the slaying of Ama Jan, however, Mullah Sadullah, a regional Taliban commander, claimed responsibility in a call to the Associated Press. It was impossible to verify the claim .

A teacher for more than three decades, Ama Jan was known for being a proponent of women's rights in this former Taliban stronghold. She always wore a burqa, and was shot dead while wearing the traditional Islamic garment, her son said.

Her death and the suicide attack today occurred amid rising violence by Taliban militants. This month a suicide bomber assassinated a provincial governor -- a close associate of President Hamid Karzai -- and last week militants killed 19 construction workers on a bus in Kandahar Province.

Attacks on schools are also increasing. Militants last year burned down or attacked 146 schools, and already this year have attacked 158 schools, said an Afghan official.

The school attacks appear motivated partly by Taliban opposition to education for girls -- claiming it is against Islam.

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