A provincial official known for fighting for women's rights in Afghanistan was gunned down in the southern part of the country on Sunday, officials said.

Gunmen killed Sitara Achakzai outside her home in Kandahar city and then drove off, said Matiullah Khan Qateh, police chief of Kandahar province.

Four men drove up on two motorcycles and shot Achakzai as she was getting out of her car, he said.

Qari Yousef Ahmedi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack.

A family member told The Canadian Press that Achakzai's 99-year-old mother and sister live in Markham, Ont., northeast of Toronto.

Achakzai, a dual German-Afghan citizen, spent the years of Taliban rule in Germany and returned to her native country to fight for women's rights, said Shahida Bibi, a member of the Kandahar women's association who worked with Achakzai.

Achakzai was a member of Kandahar's provincial council, and had been vocal in encouraging women to take jobs and encouraging them to fight for equal rights, Bibi said. 

The day before in neighbouring Zabul province, Afghan soldiers and police killed 22 militants in a nighttime gunbattle, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said an Afghan army convoy had come under attack and police came to its aid.