Female member of Afghan peace team survives attack by gunmen

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Fawzia Koofi

FILE – In this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo, Afghan politician Fawzia Koofi speaks to media before the “intra-Afghan” talks in Moscow, Russia. Koofi survived an assassination attempt, Afghan officials said Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that Koofi was attacked late Friday afternoon near the capital of Kabul returning from a visit to the northern province of Parwan. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A female member of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team was lightly wounded in an assassination attempt, officials said Saturday.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Fawzia Koofi, who is also a former parliamentarian, was attacked Friday afternoon near the capital Kabul while 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 U.S. 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.”

Fawzia Koofi and her sister Maryam Koofi stopped at a market in the Qarabagh district when gunmen attacked them, Arian said.

Both Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate continue to carry out attacks against Afghan government figures, but Zabihullah Maujhid, a Taliban spokesman, denied the group was involved.

Koofi is also a women’s rights activist who has been a vocal Taliban critic. A message on her Facebook page said she suffered a wound to her right arm. “Thankfully not a life threatening injury,” it said.

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

The U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 good will 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 The Associated Press talks could begin by Aug. 20.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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