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UK academic killed in Kabul attack

Published 15/05/2015

Afghan policemen stand guard near the Park Palace Hotel after an attack by Taliban militants, in Kabul (AP)
Afghan policemen stand guard near the Park Palace Hotel after an attack by Taliban militants, in Kabul (AP)

An attack by the Taliban on a guest house in Kabul which left a Briton dead also claimed the life of a scientist who lectured at an English university.

Paula Kantor, 46, an expert on gender and development issues, was in Afghanistan working on a project to help improve the livelihoods of local people when gunmen stormed the Park Palace Hotel in the Afghan capital on Wednesday.

The hotel was hosting a party for foreigners and authorities said the victims were killed during a lengthy siege that ended yesterday morning.

Nine foreigners were among the dead, government officials in the country said.

A British man who held joint Afghan nationality and was working for the British Council was killed alongside Ms Kantor, an American.

Ms Kantor, who was from North Carolina and was the former director of an organisation working to improve the lives of Afghans, studied for a masters degree in gender and development at the University of Sussex in the 1990s and was a lecturer in the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia from 2004 to 2008.

John McDonagh, head of the school, said: "Paula was a hugely impressive academic but more than that an amazingly friendly, collegial, calm, brave and humorous person. Almost all of her work had a gender theme and she spent much of the last 10 years in Afghanistan.

"After leaving UEA in 2008, Paula directed the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit for two years, then worked for periods at the International Centre for Research on Women and for WorldFish in Penang as a senior scientist. Her latest work was with CIMMYT based in the region, working on gender and agricultural development.

"Her many colleagues at UEA grieve at this tragic loss of an exceptional friend, colleague and worker for the improvement of the lives of women and all those living in poverty in developing countries."

Since February Ms Kantor had been working in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), an agricultural research and development organisation.

Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT's director general, said: "We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.

"Paula's desire to help people and make lasting change in their lives often led her into challenging settings. Her dedication and bravery was much admired by those who knew her and she leaves a lasting legacy upon which future research on gender and food security should build."

The Taliban admitted responsibility for the attack, with the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid telling media via email that they targeted the hotel because foreigners were there.

The hotel has both guest rooms for visitors and a residential area for those who live full-time in Kabul, including foreign aid workers.

Among the other foreigners who died were an Italian and four Indians.

Five Afghans were among the dead - four men and one woman - and seven were wounded, including one Afghan policeman. At least 54 hostages were rescued during the siege, Afghan officials said.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond condemned the attack, saying: "This incident brings home to us once again the courage and perseverance of the people of Afghanistan and members of the international community who support them."

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