Afghans seek policewoman's motive for killing U.S. contractor

KABUL Tue Dec 25, 2012 8:38pm IST

An Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an incident inside the compound where a U.S. advisor was killed in Kabul, December 24, 2012. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

An Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an incident inside the compound where a U.S. advisor was killed in Kabul, December 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani

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KABUL (Reuters) - An Iranian-Afghan policewoman who killed a U.S. contractor at the police headquarters in Kabul may have been motivated by a personal grudge, said security officials, who were also probing possible Taliban or al Qaeda involvement.

The officials said the woman named as Narges seemed wracked with remorse over the shooting. They said she held an Iranian passport but offered no evidence that Iran may have orchestrated the attack.

She arrived at police headquarters on Monday morning and headed to a bathroom where she loaded a pistol and hid it under her long scarf, they said. She then approached the American police trainer as he was walking to a canteen and shot him in the ribs.

"After she shot the American, she pointed her pistol to other policemen who rushed to arrest her. But her weapon jammed," one top police official told Reuters. "Her prime target could have been senior officials in the compound."

It appeared to be the first time that a female member of Afghanistan's security forces had carried out such an attack.

At least 52 members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed this year by Afghans wearing police or army uniforms, in so-called insider attacks.

Also known as green-on-blue attacks, the incidents have undermined trust between coalition and Afghan forces who are under mounting pressure to contain the Taliban insurgency before most NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

"This was a very organized shooting," said the top police official. "There must have been bigger hands involved... At this stage, we can only say that she could have been brainwashed either by the Taliban or al Qaeda."

Virginia-based DynCorp International described the killing of its employee, police mentor Joseph Griffin, 49, as a tragedy.

"The loss of any team member is tragic but to have this happen over the holidays makes it seem all the more unfair," the company said on its website.

IRANIAN PASSPORT

There had been no indication that Narges posed any threat during her six years on the job and officials had believed she was dedicated to improving security in her troubled country.

They invested in the mother of three, sending her on a law enforcement training course in Egypt and giving her responsibility for promoting women's rights in the police force, senior police officials told Reuters.

"She is a religious person with a clean background. That's why we didn't have surveillance on her," said the top police official. "It's very difficult to have surveillance on thousands of people in the police force to see who is doing what."

Authorities were examining her phone records on Tuesday. At a press conference, Interior Ministry officials presented what they said was her Iranian passport, which identified her as Narges Rezaeimomenabad.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said she had obtained an Afghan national identity card when she married her husband, an Afghan who works in the ministry's criminal investigation department.

"She is in a terrible condition now and crying, sighing deeply and asking herself why she did it," said the top police official. "She keeps saying 'shoot me dead'."

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Miriam Arghandiwal; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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