Dr Tetsu Nakamura, 73

The head of a Japanese aid agency and five other people have been killed in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan

Among the victims was Tetsu Nakamura, 73, the respected physician and head of Peace Japan Medical Services, who had recently been granted honorary Afghan citizenship for his decades of humanitarian work in the country.

“I am shocked that he had to die in this way,” Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, told a news conference in Tokyo after news of Nakamura’s death alongside five Afghan colleagues was disclosed. “He risked his life in a dangerous environment to do various work, and the people of Afghanistan were very grateful to him.”

Hundreds of Afghans posted photographs of Nakamura on their social media pages, condemning the killing and underscoring the esteem in which he was held.

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.

“Dr Nakamura has been doing great work in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, especially in irrigation and agriculture,” he said.

Among those killed in the attack on Wednesday were the doctor’s bodyguards, a driver and a passenger, a hospital spokesman said.

According to reports, Nakamura and team members were traveling to the provincial capital, Jalalabad, at about 8am. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack.

Nakamura, who was seriously wounded in the chest, died shortly after, while being airlifted to the Bagram airfield hospital in the capital, Kabul, said Gulzada Sanger, the hospital spokesman.

Nakamura had headed Peace Medical Services, a Japanese charity based in Nangarhar, since 2008. He came to Afghanistan after a Japanese colleague, Kazuya Ito, was abducted and killed.

In April, the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, granted Nakamura honorary citizenship of Afghanistan.

Nakamura had worked in the region since 1984, initially providing aid in Peshawar, in north-west Pakistan, before opening a clinic in Afghanistan in 1991.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the second in as many weeks targeting aid workers in Afghanistan.

In late November, an American working for the UN mission in Afghanistan was killed and five Afghans, including two staff members of the mission, were wounded when a grenade hit a UN vehicle in Kabul.

On Monday, a gunman opened fire on a vehicle in Kabul, killing two intelligence officials and wounding three others. No one claimed responsibility for that attack, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate have been behind such attacks.

Tetsu Nakamura, who died alongside his bodyguards, driver and one other passenger when his car was attacked in east Afghanistan, is seen at a November 2018 meeting in Japan.

The Guardian, Last modified on Wed 4 Dec 2019 18.55 GMT
Japanese aid chief among six dead in Afghanistan attack
Japanese prime minister among those to pay tribute after Tetsu Nakamura is killed in deadly ambush on car

By Peter Beaumont

A Japanese doctor who devoted his career to improving the lives of Afghans has died, after being injured in an attack in eastern Afghanistan.

Gunmen shot Tetsu Nakamura, 73, while he was travelling in a car to monitor a project, officials say.

Five Afghans were also killed in the attack, which happened in the city of Jalalabad.

Dr Nakamura headed a Japanese charity focused on improving irrigation in the country.

In October this year, he was awarded honorary citizenship from the Afghan government for his humanitarian work.

No-one has yet said they carried out the attack and the motive remains unclear.

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

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed its "revulsion" over the killing.
UN in #Afghanistan condemns and expresses its revulsion at the killing today of respected Japanese aid worker Dr. Tetsu Nakamura in #Jalalabad. A senseless act of violence against a man who dedicated much of his life to helping most vulnerable Afghans #NotATarget
5:17 PM - Dec 4, 2019

Attacks of this kind are fairly common in Afghanistan.

Last week, a US national working for the UN in Afghanistan was killed in a blast targeting a UN vehicle.

Research by the BBC found an average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan in the month of August alone.

How did the attack unfold?

Dr Nakamura was travelling in a vehicle in Jalalabad city in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Wednesday morning when he came under attack.

He was shot on the right side of his chest and was in the process of being transferred to a hospital near the capital Kabul when he died at Jalalabad airport, officials told AFP news agency.

His three security guards, a driver and one of his colleagues were also killed, said Attuallah Khogyani, a spokesman for Nangarhar's governor.

Photos from the scene showed a white pickup truck with at least three bullet holes in its windscreen.

Who was Tetsu Nakamura?

He was born in the Japanese city of Fukuoka in 1946.

After qualifying as a doctor he moved to Pakistan in 1984 to treat patients with leprosy.

Two years later, he headed to Afghanistan, where he opened his first clinic in a remote village in Nangarhar and established a non-governmental organisation, Peace Japan Medical Services (PMS).

At its peak, PMS operated 10 clinics providing help for leprosy patients and refugees amongst others.

Dr Nakamura had also heavily been involved in the construction of wells and irrigation in villages where many suffered from cholera and other diseases because of a lack of clean water.

In 2003, he won the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, widely regarded as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

In 2014, Dr Nakamura told news outlet the Japan Times he had taken a different route to work each day to ensure his safety.

However, he also added that the best precaution he could take was to "befriend everyone".

"I've tried to make no enemies... The best way is to befriend everyone, even if that makes people think I lack principles. Because the people are the only thing I can depend on there," he said.

"And that's surprisingly more effective than carrying a gun."

What has the reaction been?

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the government strongly condemned "the heinous and cowardly attack" on Afghanistan's "greatest friend".

"Dr Nakamura dedicated all his life to change the lives of Afghans, working on water management, dams and improving traditional agriculture," Sediq Sediqqi wrote on Twitter.

The Dutch ambassador in Kabul, Ernst Noorman, called the killing "senseless", saying Dr Nakamura had dedicated his life to the "peace and development of Afghanistan".

The governor of Nangarhar province, Shah Mahmood Meyakhail, said "all the people of Nangarhar" were saddened by Dr Nakamura's death and were thankful for the many years he spent helping the people, Tolo News reports.

Dr Nakamura headed a Japanese charity and served in rural areas of Afghanistan

Bullet holes are seen in the window of the vehicle

The victims were in a white pickup truck

Dr Nakamura has been recognised for his work

The BBC was given exclusive access to spend a week with ambulance workers in Afghanistan.

BBC, Published: 4 December 2019
Tetsu Nakamura: Japanese doctor among six dead in Afghan gun attack

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