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Afghan provincial judge is killed amid campaign of assassinations

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghanistan — In Afghanistan, to be a judge is to be a target.

Afghan officials on Sunday reported the assassination of a provincial jurist from a restive eastern province. His 8-year-old daughter was killed along with him, they said.

For the last several years, the Taliban and affiliated insurgent groups have carried out a concerted campaign of assassinations, taking aim at influential local figures — tribal elders, community leaders, municipal and provincial officials — because of perceived loyalty to the central Afghan government.

Such targeted killings account for a growing proportion of overall civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan, the United Nations said in a recent report.

The victim of the latest shooting, on Sunday evening, was Mohammad Nasir, who led the appeals court in Kunar province, which lies near Pakistan’s tribal areas and has been the scene of heavy fighting over the last year. The killing occurred as the judge was visiting family in neighboring Nangarhar province.

Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a provincial spokesman in Nangarhar, said that Nasir was ambushed in his vehicle on his way home from a family visit, and that the shooting also injured two women and five children, all believed to be relatives. Other news accounts said the killing had taken place in the home of a family member in Nangarhar.

The killing occurred in a district close to Jalalabad, the main city in Afghanistan’s east, which was recently handed over to Afghan security control. The Afghan police and army are gradually taking over security responsibility from North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in anticipation of a winding down of the Western combat role in 2013. A drawdown of American troops is already under way in anticipation of that shift, and other NATO nations are following suit.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the judge’s death from the Taliban or from other groups that are more active in Afghanistan’s east, including the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.

In the south of Afghanistan, an American military contractor reported the deaths of four Tajikistan nationals in a helicopter crash in Zabol province, which borders volatile Kandahar province. The NATO force confirmed the crash but said the fatalities were non-military, and referred questions to the contractor, the Supreme Group.

The U.S.-based contractor said the helicopter was operated by the Central Asian Aviation Services, The Associated Press reported. The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but the weather across Afghanistan has been snowy, cloudy and cold.

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