Assassins silence another ‘voice of Afghan democracy’ in Kabul killing

Dec. 24, 2020
Afghans carry the coffin of Yousuf Rasheed, executive director of the nongovernmental Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, during his funeral Dec. 23 in Kabul.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Yousuf Rasheed was a soft-spoken, meticulous professional whose mission was to monitor and help strengthen the uneven progress of Afghan democracy, where presidential and parliamentary elections have been marred by fraud and violence.

On Wednesday morning, Rasheed became the latest victim in an intensifying surge of lethal bombings and shootings that have targeted a variety of individuals, including government officials, medical doctors and journalists, in Kabul and other cities.

At about 8:45 a.m., Kabul police said, unknown gunmen opened fire on the white pickup truck that was carrying Rasheed to his office at the independent Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan in the capital, where he served as executive director.

They said Rasheed, a father of five in his mid-40s, was killed in a terrorist attack and his driver wounded. The empty truck was left standing on a city street with the passenger seat covered in blood and shattered glass.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents have been blamed for most of the recent targeted killings. They have coincided with troubled peace talks between Afghan and Taliban leaders, as well as with a parallel campaign of violence in the countryside. The separate Islamic State extremist group has claimed several attacks, but the Taliban is known to cover its tracks on civilian deaths by implicating the other group.

“This is a pattern aimed at creating fear and mayhem, by deliberately attacking some of the core democratic values that Afghans like Yousuf have worked tirelessly to promote — free expression, civic engagement, the symbols of a new Afghanistan,” said Nader Nadery, a senior Afghan government official and delegate to the peace talks in Qatar.

Nadery, who preceded Rasheed as head of the election monitoring group, praised his “passion and commitment to making this a country where the people would ultimately be the decision-makers.” He said Rasheed, polite and modest by nature, had become an important voice for Afghan democracy.

The Taliban insurgents “want to silence those independent voices,” he added. “They want to see everything go backward.”

Rasheed was taken to Kabul’s Emergency Hospital, where he died of his wounds. Outside, friends and colleagues gathered as news of the attack spread, and several wept when they learned he had not survived.

“He was a patient man who wouldn’t lose his temper under any circumstances,” said Omid Nawrozi, who worked with Rasheed. He said Rasheed had been scheduled to speak about the peace talks at a news conference planned for Wednesday morning at the election forum office.

Abdul Rawof Sekandari, a longtime neighbor of Rasheed’s in a modest community on the southern outskirts of the capital, described him as “a kind and sympathetic person” who “never harmed anyone.” Rasheed’s attackers were terrorists seeking to kill “anyone who works for the country,” he said. “Their goal is to destroy Afghanistan.”

Several people expressed anger at the Afghan government’s inability to stop the rash of targeted bombings and shootings that have rattled the capital and the nation, especially with the peace talks making little substantive progress since they began in September, and U.S. troops expected to be reduced to about 2,500 by early next year.

Recent victims have included the deputy governor of Kabul province, three doctors working at Kabul’s main prison, and a prominent female journalist at a TV station in Jalalabad. A member of parliament survived the bombing of his convoy in Kabul, but at least nine others were killed.

Hassan reported from Kabul.

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Afghan official: Women’s rights activist shot dead in north

Dec. 24, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan women’s rights activist was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in northern Kapisa province Thursday, an Interior Ministry official said.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Freshta Kohistani was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the Kohistan district of Kapisa. Kohistani’s brother was wounded in the attack, he said.

Kohistani, a former provincial council member, organized protests and raised awareness on social media about violence against women in Afghanistan.

The attack was the latest amid relentless violence in Afghanistan even as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators hold talks in Qatar, trying to hammer out a peace deal that could put an end to decades of war.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in Kabul in recent months, including on educational institutions that killed 50 people, most of them students.

At the same time, Taliban militants have waged bitter battles against IS fighters, particularly in eastern Afghanistan, while continuing their insurgency against government forces and keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press

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Afghanistan, ‘Deadliest Place to Be A Civilian’

ICRC, International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday said in a tweet, that Afghanistan remains one of the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.

“Afghanistan is one of the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” ICRC tweeted.

Adding to it, the committee said 17 million people in the country are highly affected by armed conflicts.

According to ICRC, almost 50% of the population in Afghanistan is influenced by the war.

Previously in November, ICRC said that Afghanistan remains the deadliest place for civilians, children, and women, Robert Mardini, Director General of the ICRC during his visit to Afghanistan called on all warring parties to do their best to protect and safeguard civilians from harm.

ICRC also added that civilians make up to half of the war casualties.

In a statement issued by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on Monday, it is said that the Afghan government and Taliban urgently need to respond to the Afghan media demands for support, safety, protection, access to information, and timely investigations.

AIHRC stated, targeting journalists in the past few months delivered a negative impact on media across Afghanistan, and many female journalists have left their job.

Meanwhile, US Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported quoting Resolute Support that at least 876 civilians were killed and a total of 1,685 were wounded from July 1 to Sept 2020.

SIGAR reported that there was a 43% increase in the casualties compared to the previous quarter (April-June).

This quarter’s high figures are notable because they occurred amidst the ongoing peace process.

Assassins silence another ‘voice of Afghan democracy’ in Kabul killing