“Escape from Taliban” author shot dead in Afghanistan

KHOST, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – An Indian author whose story was told in the movie “Escape from Taliban” was shot dead after returning to Afghanistan to make a documentary about women, police said on Friday.

The killing of Sushmita Banerjee, 49, on Wednesday was the latest in a series of attacks on women in the conservative Islamic country, adding to concern that hard-won women’s rights are eroding ahead of next year’s withdrawal of most international forces.

The Afghan Taliban denied involvement. Banerjee, who told her story of life under the Islamist Taliban in “A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife”, was dragged from her house in lawless southeastern province of Paktika and shot as many as two dozen times, police said.

Her body was found on Thursday morning near an Islamic school about three km (two miles) from her home, Paktika police chief General Dawlat Khan Zadran said.

“Gunmen entered her house at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, took her out and shot her dead,” Zadran said, adding that he suspected Taliban involvement. Speaking to Reuters from Paktika police headquarters, Banerjee’s husband, Jaanbaz Khan, said he had heard knocking on the back gate of their compound on Wednesday night. “I opened the gate and two gunmen with turbans wrapped around their faces burst in,” he said.

“They beat me, blindfolded me, bound my hands and feet and locked me in a room. They took my wife away. I was released early the next morning when some family came to the house and discovered me.”

Contrary to some media reports, Khan said his wife had not received any threats from Taliban since returning to Afghanistan this year. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied involvement. The group has been waging an insurgency against the U.S.-led military in Afghanistan since its ouster from power in 2001.

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