Attempted murder of Afghan woman negotiator work of ‘peace spoilers’

Attempted murder of Afghan woman negotiator work of ‘peace spoilers’
Attempted murder of Afghan woman negotiator work of ‘peace spoilers’

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KABUL: An Afghan women’s rights advocate and negotiator who was wounded in an attack on Friday said she will persevere despite the assassination attempt, and continue her work in the war-ravaged country.

“The attackers thought that I was dead. Their mission was complete and they decided to flee. I think that those who conducted the attack were spoilers of the peace process, since I have no personal enmity with anyone,” Fawzia Koofi told Arab News from her hospital bed in her first interview with a foreign media outlet since the attack.

The assassination attempt started when an armed group in a car tried to block her vehicle from the front before a gunman opened fire from a second car behind her.

“One bullet hit my shoulder. I bowed my head down towards the front part of the seat and remained there. Another bullet struck one part of the vehicle and the driver sped up and went off road,” Koofi, 45, who was accompanied by guards in another vehicle, added.

The attempted murder drew stern condemnation from local and foreign leaders, including from US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who described it as a “cowardly and criminal act by those who seek to delay the Afghan peace process,” which he has been trying to initiate.

The attack took place late on Friday in an area of Kalakan to the north of Kabul, which was, until recently, considered safe.

Koofi, who twice served as a lawmaker since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001, said she regained consciousness after being moved to a hospital in Kabul, where medical staff removed the bullet. She is being treated for her injuries.

“One of my daughters was with me in the back seat of the vehicle when the attack happened, but she is fine,” Koofi said. The activist was returning from a funeral ceremony in Parwan to the north of Kabul. She added that halfway through the journey she chose to move to another vehicle instead of the armored car she usually travels in.

“I feel suffocated in armored vehicles and I asked the guards to sit in it and follow me after I sat in my other car,” she said.

And while she does not know who her attackers were, an initial assessment by security officials suggested “Daesh could be behind it.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Aryan told Arab News that authorities have yet to identify the attackers and their motive, even as the Taliban distanced themselves from the attack.

Koofi is among a small group of women who are part of a negotiating team tasked with the intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in the coming days.

Although a Taliban critic in the past, Koofi was among politicians who held a rare meeting with several Taliban leaders in Russia in 2019.

“This attack will have no impact of any sort on my efforts for the peace process, and for working and defending the rights of women in Afghanistan. The more they try to silence the voice of women, the more women here will get organized and become united,” she said.

“I have not harmed anyone in this country and working for the peace process is a hard task, but I will work for peace and stability in my country despite this cowardly attack,” she added.

In recent months, there have been a series of deadly attacks against women working for Afghan security organs, both in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. Shaharzad Akbar, chief of the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission, tweeted on Sunday that the attack was part of a “worrying pattern of targeted attacks that can negatively impact confidence in the peace process.”

Koofi said she did not know when she will leave hospital or when negotiations would begin with the Taliban.

However, the government-appointed team of negotiators is set to start long-awaited peace negotiations with militants once Taliban prisoners held by Kabul are released.

The US, which struck a deal with the Taliban in late February in Qatar, has been trying to broker the peace talks and end more than 18 years of war after signing a troop withdrawal deal with the militant group.

Many have voiced concerns about the protection of women’s rights throughout the process.

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