x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Taliban militants kidnap female Afghan politician

Three children freed after being abducted with their mother at gunpoint.

GHAZNI, Afghanistan // Taliban militants kidnapped a female Afghan member of parliament, officials said yesterday, in the latest example of prominent women in the country being targeted.

Fariba Ahmadi Kakar and her three children were taken at gunpoint on Saturday in the central province of Ghazni on the main motorway from Kandahar to Kabul.

"The security forces released her children in an operation on Monday. But she has been kept in another location, we are still searching for her," said Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy provincial governor of Ghazni.

"The town elders are also involved in talks with the kidnappers to secure her release."

Mr Ali Ahmadi gave no further details about the identity of the kidnappers.

A parliamentary spokesman said it was the first time an Afghan MP — male or female — had been abducted in 10 years.

Several other officials in Ghazni and Kandahar confirmed the kidnapping and dismissed interior ministry reports that Ms Kakar was on a trip to Turkey. Ms Kakar's family earlier denied that she had been taken hostage and some relatives said she was in hospital.

Haji Zaman, a Ghazni elder involved in the release negotiations, said that local Taliban were involved in the kidnapping.

"They are local Taliban, they want money and the release of four comrades from Afghan prisons," he said.

Hostages in Afghanistan are often taken by local criminal gangs, and can be sold on to insurgent groups who then demand cash ransoms or prisoner exchanges for their release.

Women in public roles in Afghanistan are under constant threat, with many conservative Muslims unhappy about women being able to work outside the home and build independent careers.

Last month, gunmen shot dead one of the country's most high-profile female police officers.

Lt Islam Bibi, a well-known face of female advancement, was killed by unknown assailants as she was being driven to work by her son.

Women's rights are a key focus of international efforts in Afghanistan, with foreign diplomats often pointing to more female schoolchildren and greater freedom for women as signs of progress.

But donor nations fear that such advances will be at risk when 87,000 Nato troops withdraw next year and Islamist groups lobby for more influence.