KABUL (Reuters) - Two Finnish aid workers with an international Christian organization were shot dead on Thursday in Afghanistan's western city of Herat, officials said.
The attack comes at a sensitive time as Afghanistan audits votes from a disputed presidential election to pick a successor to the incumbent, Hamid Karzai.
Foreign troops have been in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban since 2001 but are withdrawing from the country this year, leaving Afghan forces to maintain security.
"The two women who were gunned down were working in the health sector for a foreign aid organization in Herat," provincial governor Fazlullah Wahidi told Reuters.
Two gunmen on a motorbike approached the aid workers' taxi and opened fire, he said.
Finland's foreign ministry later said the women were Finnish, while the Afghan Interior Ministry said the two worked for International Assistance Mission, a Christian group that has worked in Afghanistan since 1966.
"The barbaric fate of the women affects us all. The act is particularly shocking as the women were in Afghanistan to help local people," Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said in a statement. He said he had demanded that local officials do all they can to bring those guilty to justice.
In a separate incident, explosives attached to a motorbike went off in the northern province of Takhar, killing six civilians and wounding 28 people, the interior ministry said.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Sakari Suoninen and Jussi Rosendahl in Helsinki; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Hugh Lawson)