Two held in Afghanistan over killing of Indian writer Sushmita Banerjee

KHOST, Afghanistan Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:28pm IST

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KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan police have detained two insurgents suspected of killing an Indian author who they accused of spying, a provincial police chief said on Tuesday.

Sushmita Banerjee, whose story was told in the movie "Escape from Taliban", was pulled from her home by gunmen in the eastern province of Paktika on Wednesday last week and shot dead.

Paktika provincial police chief Dawlat Khan Zadran said two insurgents were detained while planting a roadside bomb and their features matched the description of the killers given by Banerjee's Afghan husband.

"During the interrogation, one of them confessed to killing the Indian author but said he had other accomplices," Zadran told Reuters.

"They said they killed her because she defamed the Taliban in her writing and set up an internet connection in her home to spy for India," Zadran added.

The Afghan Taliban denied involvement but Zadran said the two detained men identified themselves as members of a militant faction allied with the Taliban called the Haqqani network.

The Haqqanis, an ethnic Pashtun group with strongholds in southeastern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, are seen by the government and Western force as the most experienced militant fighters in Afghanistan.

They have been held responsible for some of the most serious attacks in the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere.

Banerjee, who was 49 and from Kolkata, moved to Afghanistan in 1989 after marrying Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan. She converted to Islam and changed her name to Sayed Kamala.

She opened a dispensary providing medicine, but her life changed dramatically in 1993, when the Taliban emerged in southern Afghanistan after years of war.

Branded a woman of poor morals, she was forced to close her dispensary and whipped for refusing to wear a burqa, she said in a book she wrote.

She fled to Pakistan but was brought back by her husband's family and kept under house arrest. According to her book, she escaped in 1994 by tunnelling a hole through a mud wall.

She fled but was quickly detained near Kabul. Despite threats of execution, she convinced the Taliban to send her to the Indian embassy from where she was repatriated to India.

She was making a documentary about the lives of women in Paktika when she was killed.

(Reporting by Elyas Wahdat; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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