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Well-known Japanese doctor and humanitarian Tetsu Nakamura gunned down in Afghanistan attack

AP, Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Gunmen opened fire on a car belonging to a Japanese physician and aid worker Wednesday, killing him and five Afghans, including his bodyguards, the driver and another passenger, according to Afghan officials.

Tetsu Nakamura, 73, who headed Peace Japan Medical Services — known as Peshawar-kai in Japanese — was shot by gunmen while in a vehicle in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, the officials said.

A native of Fukuoka, Nakamura had headed the aid group in Nangarhar since 2008. He came to Afghanistan after a Japanese colleague, Kazuya Ito, was abducted and killed.

“Sadly, Dr. Nakamura has passed away from the wounds he received in the armed attack this morning,” said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor.

Nakamura, who was shot in the chest, had undergone surgery at a local hospital, according to Peshawar-kai.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the second in as many weeks targeting aid workers in Afghanistan.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, saying they have “good relations” with organizations that “contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

Jalalabad resident Auzubillah, who only uses one name, said he heard shooting at about 8 a.m. “I saw there were gunmen attacking a Japanese and his security guards,” he said. “Then the gunmen left the area through a small street.”

Nakamura was well known in Japan for his aid work, which he had performed for decades. The Peshawar-kai website states that the doctor began providing aid in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, in 1984, going on to open a clinic in Nangarhar in 1991.

In 1998, the organization established a hospital in Peshawar to serve as its permanent base for medical operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The group also built irrigation canals in Afghanistan following a serious drought in 2000.

Recognizing his contributions, the Afghan government awarded Nakamura a decoration last year as well as honorary citizenship in October.

In 2003, Nakamura won the Philippines’ Ramon Magsaysay Award — often called Asia’s Nobel Prize — for peace and international understanding.

Wednesday’s attack came as humanitarian groups remained on high alert after an American aid worker for the U.N. was killed in a bombing in Kabul on Nov. 24.

Mitsuji Fukumoto, an official with Nakamura’s organization, told reporters in Tokyo that the motive for the attack was unclear.

“We have no idea what the reason was behind the attack; whether it was a simple robbery or whether it was a conflict of interest,” Fukumoto told reporters.