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Afghan peace negotiator survives assassination attempt

Fauzia Koofi of Afghanistan in 2011 (S.K. Vemmer (U.S. Department of State) WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Afghan officials say a member of the government’s team tasked with negotiating with the Taliban has survived an assassination attempt.

A vehicle carrying Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker and women’s rights activist, was attacked by gunmen late on August 14 along a highway in the Qarabagh district of Kabul Province, said Masoom Stanekzai, Kabul’s chief peace negotiator.

Stanekzai said Koofi sustained minor injuries, but that “she is in good condition and there is nothing to worry about.”

Koofi, a vocal critic of the Taliban, is part of the government’s 21-member team that will lead talks with the militants.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although similar incidents in the past have been blamed on the Taliban.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, a body tasked with leading peace negotiations with the Taliban, on August 15 “strongly condemned the assassination attempt” on Koofi.

Abdullah called on the government to “identify and apprehend the culprits and possible motive for the attack.”

The incident came as the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch long-delayed peace talks in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.

The intra-Afghan talks could start as early as next week.

The breakthrough came after President Ashraf Ghani said he would release 400 Taliban militants, the final part of a major prisoner swap.

The government on August 14 released the first batch of militants, many of whom have been convicted of deadly attacks on Afghans and foreigners.

A deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February called for Kabul to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.