HEART - Two Finnish female aid workers were shot dead by unknown gunmen while travelling in a taxi in western Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said, the latest killings in a recent spate of attacks on foreigners.
It came as Afghanistan undertakes a massive audit of its recently concluded presidential vote to avert an impasse threatening to plunge the country into an ethnic conflict as foreign troops prepare to depart after more than a decade of war.
No group has yet claimed responsiblity for the killings in Herat city, but the Christian medical charity the women worked for was targeted by the Taliban four years ago in an attack that killed eight foreigners. The militants claimed at the time the medics were "missionaries".
Sayed Fazullah Wahidy, governor of Herat province, told AFP: "This morning at around 11:30am (0700 GMT) gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at two foreigners riding in a taxi and killed them."
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed the attack and said the perpetrators had escaped.
"One person was detained at the scene but the two gunmen escaped and the police are searching the area," he said.
The Interaional Assistance Mission, a Christian medical charity said the victims were Finnish expatriate employees.
"With deep sadness we confirm that today... two Finnish expatriate female staff members of IAM have been killed in Herat," said a statement signed by the group's acting executive director Heini Makila.
"We are in the process of informing the relatives and therefore cannot confirm any other details. Our prayers are with their relatives, friends, Afghan and international colleagues," it added.
The Finnish foreign ministry also confirmed the women's nationality.
MOTORBIKE BOMB KILLS SIX CIVILIANS
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed motorcycle in northern Afghanistan Thursday, killing six civilians and wounding more than 20 in a crowded market as shoppers bought supplies for the upcoming festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, officials said.
The attack in Takhar province came as Afghanistan is conducting an audit of its presidential vote aimed at ending an impasse that has threatened to plunge the country into a crisis as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year.
"Today morning a suicide bomber detonated his explosive packed motorcycle in Khwaja Ghar district central of Takhar province," Sunatullah Taimor, the provincial governor's spokesman told AFP.
"All of the wounded were civilians, six were killed and 26 others were wounded," he said.
Taimor added that the bomb had been intended for a police pick-up truck but missed its target.
Khali Aseer, provincial police spokesman confirmed the death toll to AFP and said: "The victims were shopping for the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr festival.
"Unfortunately, they were martyred in a suicide attack by the enemies of Afghanistan," a phrase taken to mean the Taliban, who have waged an insurgency against the government since being ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.