Woman member of Afghanistan’s peace group survives assault by gunmen close to Kabul

Fawzia Koofi, who is part of a 21-member team which will represent the Afghan govt in upcoming peace talks with the Taliban, is in good health, said the team’s head. No outfit has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kabul: A female member of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team and a former parliamentarian survived an assassination attempt, Afghan officials said Saturday.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that Fawzia Koofi was attacked late Friday afternoon near the capital of Kabul returning from a visit to the northern province of Parwan.

Koofi is part of a 21 member team charged with representing the Afghan government in upcoming peace talks with the Taliban, following a US deal with the militants that was struck in February.

The head of the Afghan peace delegation, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, tweeted that Koofi had survived the attack and was “in good health.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Both Taliban and Islamic State affiliates continue to carry out attacks against Afghan government figures.

Koofi is also a women’s rights activist who has been a vocal Taliban critic. She and her sister Maryam Koofi stopped at a market in the Qarabagh district when gunmen attacked them.

Arian said police were launching an investigation. No further details of the assault were available, he added.

The US peace deal aims to recruit the Taliban to fight Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, a mutual enemy. The Taliban and IS are staunch rivals.

The peace deal also paved the way for US and NATO forces to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan and for the Taliban and Afghan government to begin direct talks.

The Afghan government said on Friday that it had released the first 80 of a final 400 Taliban prisoners ahead of direct negotiations between the two sides.

Prisoner releases on both sides are part of the agreement signed in February between the US and the Taliban. It calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban held by the government and 1,000 government and military personnel held by the insurgent group as a goodwill gesture ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.

Talks are expected to be held in Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office. Several Afghan leaders told news agency The Associated Press that talks could begin by 20 August.

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