New York Times , August 10, 2005

Afghan Woman Accused of Being U.S. Spy Is Killed

Police chief said he knew her as the wife of Malik Razi Khan, was 50 to 60 years old, illiterate and very poor


KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 10 - Men suspected of being Taliban militants dragged an elderly woman from her house in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, accused her of spying for the American forces and fatally shot her, a local Afghan official said today.

The killing was the latest by insurgents who, Afghan officials say, are using intimidation and violence on soft targets - innocent unarmed civilians - to try to disrupt elections set for Sept. 18. An American soldier died of his wounds from a roadside explosion on Tuesday, the United States military said today.

The woman, whom the local police chief said he knew only as the wife of Malik Razi Khan, was 50 to 60 years old, illiterate and very poor. She lived in Bakurzai, a poor village hit hard by drought. Villagers reported the killing, and the police were investigating, the chief, Muhammad Yunus Akhundzada, said in a telephone interview.

"The Taliban were telling this woman that your son is working with the government and he gave you a satellite telephone and you are spying for the Americans," he said. "That's true, the son is working for the government. But it's not true that she is a spy. She is illiterate, she cannot even write her name, and she does not leave the house."

The Taliban detained a man, Muhammad Karim, in the village, but released him, the police chief said. "In these areas lots of things happen because of tribal issues or personal enmities, and then the Taliban are also killing," he said. "But the local people said they were Taliban who did this."

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility for the killing, saying that the woman had been killed because she was a spy, Agence France-Presse reported. He also said that two male relatives had been seized and removed from the village. Mr. Hakimi's statements have often proved unreliable.

The killing of a woman is shocking to the Pashtun tribes of southern Afghanistan, because it goes against their code. The accusation that the woman was a spy for the Americans is far-fetched because rural Pashtun women rarely leave their homes and never meet men who are not relatives.

President Hamid Karzai reacted angrily to the killing in a visit to London, asking journalists: "What did that woman do? Did she have any tanks?"

At least six clerics and teachers, as well as doctors, tribal elders and election workers, have been killed in the last three months as antigovernment militants have increased their attacks. On Monday a doctor was fatally shot by men suspected of being Taliban members in a clinic in Ghazni Province, south of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban have in the past accused doctors and aid workers of spying for the American military.

Defense Minister Gen. Abdur Rahim Wardak, said that in the past the guerrillas had not used such "dirty tactics" as attacking soft targets and killing civilians and women. The change is a sign that the militants now active in Afghanistan have moved closer to being terrorists or mercenaries, he said today in an interview.

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