KABUL, Afghanistan -- A French aid worker was killed yesterday when one of two Afghan men on a motorcycle opened fire on the marked United Nations car in which she was traveling. Police said they captured the assailants, whom they identified as Taliban militants.
Bettina Goislard, 29, an employee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was the first international UN staff member slain in postwar Afghanistan. She was shot at close range at a bazaar in Ghazni, capital of Ghazni Province in central Afghanistan. Her Afghan driver was wounded.
The attack was the latest indication that Taliban insurgents are targeting the UN. Also yesterday, a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a UN vehicle carrying three Afghan UN employees in the eastern province of Paktia. They escaped injury, officials said.
On Tuesday, a car bomb exploded outside UN offices in Kandahar city in the south, injuring two people, including a UN security guard. Taliban members claimed responsibility for the car bomb.
In Geneva, where the UNHCR is based, Refugee High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said Goislard's death was "yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker." He said the UN agency is suspending work in Ghazni and would be conducting a review of its work in Afghanistan.
Goislard's death outraged people in Ghazni, with some trying to find out where the gunmen lived so they could attack their homes, said Khial Mohammed Husseini, deputy governor of Ghazni Province, in a telephone interview.
"The whole nation is shocked by this act of merciless killing," President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said in a statement. "The Afghan people will never forgive terrorists who kill innocent people and those who are here helping us."
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France expressed his "profound emotion and indignation in the face of the cowardly attack."
Goislard was one of about 800 foreign UN staff in Afghanistan. She was assigned to the Ghazni region where she was responsible for the protection of 55,000 returned refugees. She worked closely with local authorities.
David Singh, spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan in Kabul, said Goislard had been traveling in a white vehicle clearly marked with her agency's letters, UNHCR.
"Two men on a motorbike drove by her UNHCR vehicle in Ghazni bazaar, with the passenger rider opening fire at point-blank range on the vehicle," Singh said.
Police fired on the motorcycle, wounding one of the men and capturing them both. Husseini, the Ghazni official, said they are Taliban members.
Goislard was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, Singh said. Her body was brought to Kabul later yesterday.
The driver of her car, an Afghan national, was shot in the arm and was listed in stable condition at a hospital, Singh said. Another Afghan colleague was unhurt.
All UN staff members in Kandahar in the south, Gardez east of Ghazni, and Jalalabad east of Kabul were instructed to reduce their movements and send their local staff home as a precaution.
It was the first fatal attack on a foreign UN worker in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted by the US-led coalition two years ago, Singh said. An Afghan UN worker, one of several thousand in the country, was killed in his home in northern Afghanistan in April 2002, although officials said the motive may have been robbery or a personal dispute.