A woman killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul left a final message on Twitter weeks before she died, reading: ‘I am back in Afghanistan and wonder what lies before me this time.’
Jeni Ayris, pictured above, of Edinburgh, died alongside 11 fellow aviation workers when a female insurgent rammed a car laden with explosives into their minibus as they drove to the airport on Tuesday.
She had been due to leave the country this weekend to see friends and her sister Patricia.
Islamist body Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack. It said the bombing was a response to a US film lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, which has sparked lethal riots across the globe.
South African-born Miss Ayris, 46, had spent 17 years in the Scottish capital.
She had been in Afghanistan to organise flights for charities and non-governmental organisations.
A friend, Richard Kellett, said: ‘She loved her job. She would go out there for three months at a time . . . when she came home on leave she always looked forward to going back.’
A statement from Miss Ayris’s family described her as ‘a warm, kind and generous person with an everyday objective of helping everyone she met’.
Major Charles Heyman, who edits the British Army handbook, said the incident was ‘astonishing’. He said: ‘Commanders need to start thinking very, very carefully about what sort of medical examinations female soldiers have before they deploy on operations.
‘A simple urine test would indicate if someone was pregnant. The Army now needs to tighten up its procedures.’
Since 2003 at least 70 British servicewomen have been sent home from Afghanistan after discovering they were expecting. And at least 102 female soldiers were evacuated from Iraq after it was found they were pregnant.
Last year the Mail told how Private Kayla Donnelly, then 21, from Penrith, Cumbria, served in Helmand unaware that she was seven months’ pregnant.
She had conceived before going to Afghanistan as a machine-gunner and thought her weight gain was due to high-calorie Army rations. It was only when she collapsed in Tenerife after her tour of duty that she realised she was pregnant.
Around 500 British women are currently on duty in Afghanistan. They can serve in any unit except those whose primary role is to ‘close with and kill’ – engage in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
Eight women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, two per cent of the total fatalities. They include Corporal Sarah Bryant, 26, from Carlisle, serving with the Army Intelligence Corps, who was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2008, and Second Lieutenant Joanna Dyer, 24, from Yeovil, a friend of Prince William and also of the Army Intelligence Corps, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007.