Afghan government condemns attack against member of negotiating team.

Kabul, Aug 15 (efe-epa).- The Afghan government on Saturday condemned an attack and assassination attempt by unknown assailants against Fawzia Koofi, a women’s rights activist and member of the government negotiating team for the upcoming intra-Afghan negotiations in Qatar.

The convoy in which Koofi was travelling was attacked on Friday night by unknown gunmen in northern Kabul, according to a statement issued by Masoum Stanekzai, the head of the government’s negotiating team.

“She was injured slightly, her health condition is good and her injuries are not life threatening,” he said.

“President Ashraf Ghani condemns in strongest terms the armed attack on Fawzia Koofi, member of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s negotiation team, and leader of the (Political) Movement for Change” the presidential palace said in a statement, wishing Koofi a “speedy recovery.”

The statement added that such “cowardly attacks” would not deter the “resolve of the Afghan women” to protect their achievements of the past 19 years.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, also condemned the attack in a separate statement and urged the government to “identify and apprehend the culprits.”

Meanwhile Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Saturday denied being responsible for the attack.

“We investigated the incident, our Mujahideens (fighters) don’t have a hand in this attack,” Mujahid told EFE.

The attack against Koofi, one of the five women in the 21-member official negotiating team, comes amid the government preparing to release the remaining Taliban prisoners, paving the way for long-awaited peace negotiations between Kabul and the rebels after nearly two decades of war.

Afghan authorities had on Thursday freed 80 of the 400 prisoners remaining under its custody as part of a prisoner swap deals in which 5,000 Taliban fighters would be released in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. The Taliban had already completed its part of the swap on July 30.

Once all the prisoners are released as per a presidential decree signed by Ghani on Monday, the Taliban have said they were ready to kick off talks within a week.

Women’s rights are among the main topics on the agenda in the negotiations in Qatar, as the government and activists have expressed concerns that after regaining part of the power, Taliban may re-impose curbs on the rights achieved by women since 2001, when a US invasion had ousted the insurgent group from power.

Although the Taliban have assured that they were no longer opposed to girls’ education and have also relaxed certain harsh regulations, a Human Rights Watch report released on June 30 said the insurgents were still curtailing social liberties of women – including access to education – in territories under their control.

Since the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghan women’s access to public administration jobs has jumped from practically zero to 28 percent in 2019, while 3.5 million girls have gained access to education, representing 38 percent of the total students. EFE-EPA


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