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Two Canadians killed in Kabul hotel attack 0

By Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Sun

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CALGARY — The Calgary woman who was killed by Taliban gunmen in a luxury hotel in Kabul Thursday was devoted to peace and wasn't afraid, her grieving brother said Friday.

Zeenab Kassam, 57, one of two Canadians killed in the attack, had been teaching English to girls and boys as an aid group volunteer in Afghanistan's capital city for the past year and a half and didn't express fear, Karim-Aly Kassam said.

"This is not about the Afghan people, this is about a small, extreme minority of very dangerous people who've found a home in Afghanistan," Kassam said. "She was committed to understanding, not violence, to communication, not belligerence.

"She felt safe, she was treated well...I can't believe this is happening."


An Afghan security personnel is silhouetted while keeping watch near the Serena hotel, during an attack in Kabul March 20, 2014. (REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)

Afghan authorities said the four attackers managed to enter the heavily secured Serena Hotel and hid in a washroom for hours before gunning down diners in the hotel's restaurant, which is a popular spot for foreigners.

Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer identified the other Canadian killed as Roshan Thomas, who had been operating an independent school for children in Kabul since 2003.

Jaffer said Thomas "worked hard for the betterment of Afghanistan" with her husband and children.

Three other foreigners — from India, New Zealand and Pakistan — were also killed.

The four gunmen died in a shootout with Afghan forces.

Kassam's family in Calgary has been struggling to comprehend how the attack occurred, her brother said.

"We're trying to understand what has happened," he said.


Roshan Thomas. (Handout/Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada)

The Kassams have made retrieving Zeenab's body their first priority.

"We're trying to secure that, we're trying to co-operate with the Afghan government in anything they ask, we are a small family," the brother said. "We want privacy until her body is home."

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned the "brazen and cowardly attack."

"On behalf of all Canadians, we extend our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed and injured," he said in a statement. "Acts of terror must not go unpunished, and those who perpetrated and supported this violence must be held accountable."

It's the latest in a series of Islamist attacks ahead of the April 5 presidential election, which would mark the first time in the country's history that one elected government hands power to another.

Last week, Canada pulled out its last troops from Afghanistan, most of whom were training the country's armed forces. But many fear foreign troops are leaving before security has been achieved in a country that's known war for the past 35 years.

— With files from Daniel Proussalidis

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