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Updated: Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:27:24 GMT | By The Canadian Press, cbc.ca

Zeenab Kassam of Calgary, Roshan Thomas of Vancouver die in Kabul hotel attack



Roshan Thomas graduated from Aston with a degree in Optometry in 1978 before moving to Canada, where she today makes her home. Over the years, Roshan has dedicated her optometry training to serving marginalized populations in the developing world, through projects in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (© Source: http://www.astonalumni.org/alist/details/33/roshan-thomas)

Roshan Thomas graduated from Aston with a degree in Optometry in 1978 before moving to Canada, where she today makes her home. Over the years, Roshan has dedicated her optometry training to serving marginalized populations in the developing world, through projects in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Source: http://www.astonalumni.org/alist/details/33/roshan-thomas) Aston Alumni website

The two Canadians killed in a shooting rampage at a luxury Afghanistan hotel have been identified as Zeenab Kassam, a nurse from Calgary, and Roshan Thomas, an aid worker from the Metro Vancouver area.

The women were among the nine people killed at the Serena Hotel in Kabul on Thursday,

Kassam was volunteering as an English teacher with an unidentified aid organization in Afghanistan, according to her brother.

Thomas was described as a selfless advocate for children in the war-torn region by her long-time friend Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Thomas and her husband had helped build a school in Afghanistan, Jaffer said, adding her friend also played frequent host to young girls in need of a helping hand.

"She was one of the most unselfish people I know," Jaffer said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. "I had just seen her a few weeks ago, she was doing such good work."

Thomas had been preparing to welcome her first grandchild to the world, Jaffer said. She is survived by her husband and three adult children.

The attack that killed Thomas and Kassam came as a shock to a country long accustomed to coping with militant violence.

The Serena Hotel has long been considered one of the safest accommodations in the country. Yet on Thursday night, four teenage gunmen worked their way past security, entered the hotel restaurant and opened fire on diners.

Other victims included a foreign journalist, his wife and their two children.

Police killed all four attackers after a three-hour standoff, with gunshots resounding through the cordoned off streets outside.

Hotel restaurant packed

At the time of the attack, the hotel restaurant was packed with Afghans celebrating the eve of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, as well as foreigners who frequent the hotel.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned the brazen attack, but said it would not deter Canadians from fighting terrorism in the country.

He described the two Canadian victims as development workers who were not officially employed by the federal government.

"Many of these people dedicated their lives to helping everyday Afghans build a better country for themselves, including education, and enhancing the role of women and girls in Afghan society. For this selfless work to be met with violence, especially on the occasion of Nowruz, just further proves the depravity of the Taliban and those who support them."

Jaffer agreed.

"For something like this to happen on what was supposed to be a day of celebration, it's just horrible," she said.

The shooting rampage was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks as the Taliban and allied militants step up a campaign of violence in the weeks before the April 5 national elections.

It's the second time this year that Canadians have died in Kabul.

In January, two Canadian accountants died in a Taliban suicide attack.

Martin Glazer, of Gatineau, Que., and Peter McSheffrey, of Ottawa, were among 21 people killed when a suicide bomber and two gunmen attacked a popular restaurant in Kabul.

The two were in Afghanistan doing an audit for the Canadian International Development Agency.

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