KABUL -- A Japanese doctor whose long career was dedicated to helping some of Afghanistan's poorest inhabitants was among six people killed Wednesday (December 4) in an attack in Nangarhar Province, officials said.
The armed assault in Jalalabad was the second deadly incident involving aid workers in recent days and appalled Afghans and foreigners alike.
Tetsu Nakamura, 73, was the director of Peace Japan Medical Services -- known as Peshawar-kai in Japanese -- and had been working in the region since the 1980s, when he began treating leprosy patients in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Nakamura, who had been shot in the chest, was being transferred to a hospital in Bagram near Kabul when he died, said Nangarhar governor's spokesman Ataullah Khogyani.
Five Afghans were killed: three of Nakamura's security guards, a driver and another colleague, Khogyani said.
Jalalabad resident Auzubillah, who uses only one name, told AFP that he heard shooting at about 8.00am local time.
"I saw there were gunmen attacking a Japanese [man] and his security guards," he said. "Then the gunmen left the area through a small street."
Photos from the scene showed a white pickup truck with a large cabin. Its side windows appeared to have been shot out, and at least three bullet holes could be seen in the windshield.
The Taliban denied responsibility, claiming they have "good relations" with organisations that "contributed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan".
The Taliban in May struck Counterpart International, a US-funded non-profit group working with marginalised Afghans. That assault took nine lives.
A 'senseless act of violence'
The attack comes as humanitarian groups are on high alert just days after an aid worker for the United Nations was killed in a bombing in Kabul.
On November 24, Anil Raj, an American who worked for the United Nations (UN) Development Programme in Afghanistan, was killed when his vehicle was targeted in Kabul.
In a statement condemning Wednesday's incident, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed "revulsion" at Nakamura's killing.
It was "a senseless act of violence against a man who dedicated much of his life to helping" Afghanistan's most vulnerable, UNAMA said.
The motive was unclear, Mitsuji Fukumoto, an official with Nakamura's organisation, said in Tokyo.
"We have no idea what was the reason behind the attack, whether it was a simple robbery or whether it was conflict of interest," Fukumoto said.
"The enemies of a prosperous and stable Afghanistan continued their callous acts of terror and criminality and murdered Dr. Nakamura and his colleagues," the Afghan Presidential Palace said in a tweet on Wednesday.
President Ashraf Ghani has "ordered the relevant authorities to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice. He also offered his sympathies to the families of Dr. Nakamura's colleagues, who lost their lives in the incident", it added.
A spokesman for Ghani called Nakamura "one of the closest friends of Afghanistan".
He "dedicated his life to helping and co-operating with our people," spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said.
Nakamura was famous in Japan for his aid work, which dates back decades.
Peshawar-kai was founded by associates of Nakamura, who had lived and worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1984.
Nakamura, a native of Fukuoka, in 2003 won the Philippines' Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace and international understanding -- often called Asia's Nobel Prize.
In an old posting on his website, Nakamura described a variety of his organisation's projects to help Afghans, including the construction of wells and irrigation canals as well as health services.