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Afghan woman slain after giving birth to girl

By Laura King and Aimal Yaqubi, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghainstan — Another horrific case of violence against women in Afghanistan came to light Monday when authorities reported that a husband in a northern province, angry that his wife had not yet borne him a son, strangled her soon after she gave birth to their third child.

The killing in Kunduz province came weeks after a 15-year-old child bride in neighboring Baghlan province was rescued following a months-long ordeal at the hands of her in-laws, during which she was beaten, imprisoned in a squalid room and had her fingernails pulled out, authorities said. That case generated outrage both inside and outside the country.

Domestic abuse is commonplace in Afghanistan, but women’s rights groups have grown increasingly anxious amid efforts by the U.S. administration and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to embark on peace negotiations with the Taliban movement.

The militant Islamist group dealt harshly with women during its five-year reign, forbidding them from schooling and employment.

In the Kunduz case, however, the alleged killer was affiliated with an anti-Taliban militia commander, and local police said he was the leader of an armed gang that has been engaged in various criminal activities.

The police chief in the Khanabad district of Kunduz province, Sufi Habib, identified the victim as a 22-year-old woman named Sthorai. He said her 24-year-old husband, Sher Mohammad, is being sought in her death, and that her mother-in-law has been implicated as well.

The woman’s brother told police his sister had tried to get Mohammad to give up his gang activity and get a regular job, and that Sthorai’s husband and mother-in-law had berated and abused her after the births of her first two girls, with beatings escalating after the latest birth.

Habib said that following the killing in the village of Mafali, the husband had taken shelter with his militia, which he described as being affiliated with a former warlord, Mir Alam. He said Mohammad’s group was not part of the NATO-sponsored Afghan local police, set up to help villagers fight off the Taliban. But some Western-armed local groups have been accused of various abuses, including kidnappings and robberies.

Word of the Kunduz killing emerged as the U.S. Embassy renewed calls for the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

In a statement, the embassy expressed support Monday for a conference to be convened next month by Karzai to combat domestic violence.

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