ISLAMABAD - A shooting Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan that killed Japanese physician Tetsu Nakamura, known for his aid work in South Asia, and five others is believed to have been premediated as a witness saw about four gunmen ambushing the victims' vehicle.
According to the male witness, the armed men drove to a restaurant in two separate cars near the site of the attack in Jalalabad in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.
When Nakamura's vehicle approached, the attackers ran up and shot at it from both sides, killing the 73-year-old doctor's bodyguard first.
The witness said he hid in the restaurant after one of the gunmen yelled at him to stay away.
When the sound of gunshots subsided, the witness heard voices trying to determine whether Nakamura and the others were all dead before a few more shots were fired.
"It's finished, let's go," he heard one of the men say before they fled in their cars. The gunmen were not wearing scarves to cover their faces and had been dressed in traditional Afghan wear, according to the witness.
His account suggests that the attackers knew in advance the route used by Nakamura, representative of the Japanese aid group Peshawar-kai, and the five others.
Nakamura was conscious after the attack and received treatment at a hospital in Jalalabad, the Japanese aid group said.
(Supplied file photo shows the car Nakamura was using.)
[Photo courtesy of Peshawar-kai]
No one has claimed responsibility for the shooting so far, although a member of Nangarhar's governing council said the doctor may have been targeted for his work, Reuters reported. The anti-government Taliban militant group has denied involvement.
Nakamura died while being transported from the hospital in Jalalabad to the U.S. Bagram Airfield base, north of the country's capital Kabul, to receive further treatment, a Nangarhar official said.
Armed anti-government groups, including the Taliban and the Islamic State, operate in the province.
The doctor, a 2003 recipient of the Philippines' prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed the Nobel Prize of Asia, for his long-standing contributions to the region, was shot twice in the chest, according to the head of the hospital.
The group said Nakamura and the others were on their way to a site for irrigation work 25 kilometers away from his lodgings.
The doctor had been providing medical aid near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan for years. He was also involved in the construction of irrigation channels and tree-planting activities after a drought hit Afghanistan in 2000.
Recognizing his contributions, the Afghan government commended Nakamura last year and he received honorary citizenship from the country in October.