Edinburgh woman killed in Afghanistan suicide attack was due to return home


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The Independent Online

A British woman killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan days before she was due to return home has been described as “warm, kind and generous”.

Jeni Ayris, 46, was one of 12 people to die on yesterday when a female insurgent drove a car full of explosives into a minibus carrying mainly foreign workers in Kabul.

Friends of the South Africa-born woman told of how she had been due to fly home to Edinburgh this weekend after spending 14 months working in the country as a customer relations manager for South African aviation company, ACS/BalmOral.

Ms Ayris moved to the Scottish capital 17 years ago and held dual citizenship with the UK, travelling to Afghanistan on a British passport. She ran Ndebele, a South Africa-themed cafe, in Tollcross, Edinburgh, for around a decade.

“Jeni Ayris was a warm, kind and generous person with an everyday objective of helping everyone she met,” said her close friend Michael Hodgson. The 39-year-old added: “She had a positive boundless energy which rubbed off on everyone, making her loss all the more hurtful.”

Mr Hodgson said Ms Ayris was “highly respected” in her aviation career and had responsibility for the safe air travel of non-government organisations (NGOs) throughout Afghanistan. “Her contribution was her practical way of helping Afghanistan move forward,” he said today.  

Her sister Patricia also lives in the city and is said to be her only family.

Mr Hodgson, who met Ms Ayris when she first moved to Edinburgh and they worked together as silver service waiters, added: “A huge number of friends across Scotland and the world who are all absolutely devastated by her tragic death.”  

Of the 12 people were killed in the bombing near Kabul's airport, eight are believed to have worked for ACS/BalmOral and the other four are understood to have been Afghan citizens.

Eleven bystanders were also injured in the attack for which Islamist militant group, Hizb-i-Islami, has claimed responsibility.

It said a 22-year-old woman named Fatima had carried-out the bombing in response to an anti-Islam video clip ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed which was posted on the internet last week.

“We are in the process of notifying the next of kin and our main focus now remains with the families of the innocent victims who tragically lost their lives. Our prayers and thoughts are with them and all our staff remaining in Kabul,” read an ACS/BalmOral statement.

Hundreds of people have posted tributes, memories and photographs on a Facebook page dedicated to Ms Ayris. Michelle Atkins-Berlagoski wrote: “What a senseless act, for one so young and full of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pat during this very difficult time.”