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The American who was killed along with 13 other people in a Taliban attack on a Kabul hotel was identified Thursday as Paula Kantor, a prominent expert in international development and gender issues who was the former director of an organization working to improve life in Afghanistan.

CIMMYT, also known as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, confirmed that Kantor, 46, was killed in the hours-long siege Wednesday at the Park Palace Hotel, which a Taliban spokesman said was targeted because it believed Americans and other foreign dignitaries would be there.

CIMMYT said in a statement Thursday night that Kantor joined it in February as a senior scientist in gender and development to lead a new project "aimed at empowering and improving the livelihoods of women, men and youth in important wheat-growing areas of Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan."

From 2008 to 2010, Kantor was director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, an Afghanistan-based organization devoted to the same goals, according to CIMMYT and Kantor's LinkedIn account. The Washington Post reported that she was in Afghanistan on a short-term consulting contract.

"Paula's desire to help people and make lasting change in their lives often led her into challenging settings," said Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT's director general. "Her dedication and bravery was much admired by those who knew her, and she leaves a lasting legacy upon which future research on gender and food security should build."

Paula Kantor in an undated photo provided by CIMMYT.CIMMYT International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center



— M. Alex Johnson