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Women’s rights activist shot dead in Afghanistan

KABUL: Gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a women’s rights activist and her brother north of Afghanistan’s capital as a wave of assassinations ravages the country.

Freshta Kohistani, aged 29, was the second activist to be killed in two days after a prominent pro-democracy advocate was gunned down in Kabul on Wednesday. Their murders follow a similar pattern seen in recent weeks, in which prominent Afghans have died in targeted killings in broad daylight, several of them in the capital.

“Unknown gunmen on a motorbike assassinated Freshta Kohistani in Kohistan district of Kapisa province,” Afghan interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian told reporters.

Kapisa provincial governor Abdul Latif Murad said that the shooting had taken place near Kohistani’s home and that her brother was also killed in the attack. No group has claimed the attack so far.

Kohistani, who had campaigned for veteran leader Abdullah Abdullah during last year’s presidential election, had enjoyed a relatively large following on social media, and regularly organised civil society events in Kabul calling for women’s rights.

Abdullah said Kohistani was killed in a “terrorist attack”. In a Facebook post, he described Kohistani as “brave and fearless” activist who was at the forefront of civil and social life in Afghanistan. “The continuation of such assassinations is unacceptable,” said Abdullah, who leads the country’s overall peace process.

READ MORE: Gunmen shoot dead Afghan woman journalist in Jalalabad

Days before her death, Kohistani, who is survived by her husband and one child, wrote on Facebook that she had asked for protection from the authorities after receiving threats. She had also condemned the ongoing wave of assassinations of journalists and other prominent figures.

“Afghanistan is not a place to live in. There is no hope for peace. Tell the tailor to take your measurement (for a funeral shroud), tomorrow it could be your turn,” she tweeted in November.

The wave of assassinations has triggered fear across the country, especially in Kabul. Journalists, politicians and rights activists have increasingly been targeted as violence surges in Afghanistan, despite peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

On Wednesday, Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed, who led an independent election monitoring organisation, was ambushed and shot in morning rush-hour traffic in Kabul along with his driver. His murder came a day after five people including two doctors working for a prison on the outskirts of Kabul — were killed by a car bomb.

A prominent Afghan journalist was also shot this week while on his way to a mosque in the eastern city of Ghazni. Rahmatullah Nekzad was the fourth journalist to be killed in Afghanistan in the last two months, and the seventh media worker this year.