ISLAMABAD — Yousuf Rasheed was a soft-spoken, meticulous professional whose mission was to monitor and help strengthen the uneven progress of Afghan democracy, where presidential and parliamentary elections have been marred by fraud and violence.
On Wednesday morning, Rasheed became the latest victim in an intensifying surge of lethal bombings and shootings that have targeted a variety of individuals, including government officials, medical doctors and journalists, in Kabul and other cities.
At about 8:45 a.m., Kabul police said, unknown gunmen opened fire on the white pickup truck that was carrying Rasheed to his office at the independent Free and Fair Elections Forum of Afghanistan in the capital, where he served as executive director.
They said Rasheed, a father of five in his mid-40s, was killed in a terrorist attack and his driver wounded. The empty truck was left standing on a city street with the passenger seat covered in blood and shattered glass.
No group has claimed the attack, but Taliban insurgents have been blamed for most of the recent targeted killings. They have coincided with troubled peace talks between Afghan and Taliban leaders, as well as with a parallel campaign of violence in the countryside.
The separate Islamic State extremist group has claimed several attacks, but the Taliban are known to cover its tracks on civilian deaths by implicating the other group.
“This is a pattern aimed at creating fear and mayhem, by deliberately attacking some of the core democratic values that Afghans like Yusof have worked tirelessly to promote — free expression, civic engagement, the symbols of a new Afghanistan,” said Nader Nadery, a senior Afghan government official and delegate to the peace talks in Qatar.
Nadery, who preceded Rasheed as head of the election monitoring group, praised his “passion and commitment to making this a country where the people would ultimately be the decision-makers.” He said Rasheed, polite and modest by nature, had become an important voice for Afghan democracy.
The Taliban insurgents “want to silence those independent voices,” he added. “They want to see everything go backward.”
Rasheed was taken to Kabul’s Emergency Hospital, where he died of his wounds. Outside, friends and colleagues gathered as news of the attack spread, and several wept when they learned he had not survived.
“He was a patient man who wouldn’t lose his temper under any circumstances,” said Omid Nawrozi, who worked with Rasheed. He said Rasheed had been scheduled to speak about the peace talks at a news conference planned for Wednesday morning at the election forum office.
Abdul Rawof Sekandari, a longtime neighbor of Rasheed’s in a modest community on the southern outskirts of the capital, described him as “a kind and sympathetic person” who “never harmed anyone.” Rasheed’s attackers were terrorists seeking to kill “anyone who works for the country,” he said. “Their goal is to destroy Afghanistan.”
Several people expressed anger at the Afghan government’s inability to stop the rash of targeted bombings and shootings that have rattled the capital and the nation, especially with peace talks making little substantive progress since they opened in September, and U.S. troops expected to be reduced to about 2,500 by early next year.
Recent victims have included the deputy governor of Kabul province, three doctors working at Kabul’s main prison and a prominent female journalist at a TV station in Jalalabad. A member of parliament survived the bombing of his convoy in Kabul, but at least nine others were killed.
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Hassan reported from Kabul.