Iconic Japanese aid worker killed in Afghanistan's east

Clay Curtis
December 5, 2019

Tetsu Nakamura, the only Japanese national with a honorary Afghan citizenship died of wounds after an attack in eastern Jalalabad city in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The gunmen fled the scene and police have launched a search operation to arrest them, Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the governing council in the province of Nangarhar, told Reuters, adding that he believed Nakamura had been targeted for his work.

He headed the aid group Peace Japan Medical Services and served rural communities by providing health care and improving agriculture through irrigation projects.

Nakamura died while being transported from a hospital in Jalalabad to the U.S. Bagram Airfield base, north of the country's capital Kabul, to receive further treatment, according to a Nangarhar official.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was "shocked" by the death of Dr Nakamura while the USA embassy in Kabul condemned the shooting, saying "aid workers are not targets".

Afghan security force personnel inspect an area around a vehicle, following an attack in Jalalabad on Wednesday.

The people killed in the attack included a 33-year-old Afghan driver, the aid group said, but details about the others were not immediately available.

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No group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of noon December 4.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was "shocked" by Nakamura's death, while the Afghan presidential office deplored the killing of "one of Afghanistan's greatest friends". Several years later, after opening a clinic in Afghanistan, he identified malnourishment as the root cause behind his patients' health issues.

In 2003 Nakamura, a native of the southwestern Japanese city of Fukuoka, won the Philippines' Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace and global understanding - often called Asia's Nobel Prize.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed its "revulsion" over the killing.

The attack comes as humanitarian groups remain on high alert just days after an American aid worker for the UN Development Program was killed when his vehicle was targeted in a bombing in Kabul on November 24.

Mitsuji Fukumoto, an official with Nakamura's organisation, told reporters in Tokyo the motive for the attack was unclear.

Their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that the insurgent group "has no connection" to Wednesday's attack and does not consider the Japanese charity a target in the holy war the Taliban are waging to create an Islamic emirate.

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