Senior police woman gunned down in Afghanistan

KABUL Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:46am EDT

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KABUL (Reuters) - A senior female police officer in Afghanistan was shot in an assassination attempt on Sunday, two months after her female predecessor was killed, underscoring worries about both security and the role of women as foreign troops prepare to leave.

Lieutenant Negara, who like many Afghans only uses one name, was shot as she was being driven to work on a motorbike by a male relative in Lashkar Gah, capital of battleground southern province of Helmand.

She was taken to hospital and was expected to survive, said the provincial governor's spokesman, Omar Zwak.

Negara's high-profile predecessor, Lieutenant Islam Bibi, was shot dead in almost identical circumstances in early July.

Bibi was also being driven to work on a motorbike by a male relative when unidentified gunmen shot her dead.

The Taliban have often targeted senior female officials working for the U.S.-backed government, although some attacks have been linked to conservative male relatives, outraged that the women are going out to work.

Violence against women has increased sharply over the last two years, according to Afghanistan's independent human rights commission.

Activists also say there is waning interest in women's rights on the part of President Hamid Karzai's government, which they say would be content to let hard-fought-for women's rights disappear in return for a peace deal with the Taliban as foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

(Reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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