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Girl, 10, coming to Canada killed at Taliban checkpoint

A 10-year-old girl who was approved to come with her family to Canada from Afghanistan was killed when gunfire erupted at a Taliban checkpoint.

A 10-year-old girl who was approved to come with her family to Canada from Afghanistan was killed when gunfire erupted at a Taliban checkpoint.

Eleanor Taylor of the group Aman Lara, an organization that helps Afghans get out of the country, said the little girl named Nafiza was shot and killed while the family was travelling back from a wedding late in the evening of Dec. 10. 

The father's aunt was also killed and three others were injured, she said.

Aman Lara is only giving out first names to protect the safety of the remainder of the family. 

Removing the girl's name from their evacuation list was one of the most difficult things her group has done while working in the battle-scarred country, Taylor said.

"It's such a horrible thing. Just such a horrible thing," she said in an interview. 

"They were the lucky ones who had approved applications, but they still couldn't get out. And, you know, they're now going to get out without their daughter." 

She paused.

"It gives it a finality in a terrible way."

Nafiza's father, Bashir, worked as a carpenter for the Canadian military at a camp the Taliban knew well, she said. 

Alexander Cohen, spokesman for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, confirmed the girl's death and called it "tragic and heartbreaking." 

"We condemn this senseless act of violence by the Taliban, and our thoughts are with her family at this extremely difficult time," he said in a statement.

The family of five, Bashir and his wife, and three children including Nafiza, were approved for resettlement to Canada. But they didn't have passports, so they had to go to Kandahar to collect them and attended a wedding while waiting for their documents, Taylor said. 

Bashir released a statement about his daughter through Aman Lara. 

His little girl, the dad said was "extremely excited" about moving to Canada.

"Nafiza was in the process of learning English prior to the takeover of her country," he said.

"She had been at the top of her class in school."

Bashir "strongly feels" that his family was targeted because of his work with the Canadian Forces, Taylor said.

She has heard stories of Canada-bound Afghans who put themselves in extreme danger to get their documents, she said.

"But this is just tragic. Their names were on the manifest, on the evacuation list. They were so close."

The brutality of the Taliban, Cohen said, remains the chief obstacle in helping Afghan refugees escape to safety in Canada.

The Canadian government has promised to bring in 40,000 Afghan refugees, although the immigration minister has predicted it could take up to two years to fulfil that promise.

Cohen said the government is working to process applications as quickly as possible, and while there are thousands in Afghanistan whose applications have been processed, leaving the country has been a challenge due to Taliban interference.

"We continue to work with our allies, and an array of other partners, to find new routes for Afghans to leave the country and make their way to Canada."

Taylor said she understands that it will take time to bring people from Afghanistan to Canada, but a solution needs to be found so Afghans can get out easily.

"It just underscores the terrible risk that these people are taking to find a way to get out of Afghanistan to take advantage of the possibility that awaits them in Canada," she said.

"It is imperative that we all work to find a pathway for these people, especially those without passports."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2021.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press