Afghan women's rights activist shot dead in Kapisa province

Killing of Freshta Kohistani is the latest in a string of assassinations of prominent Afghans

Members of Afghan security forces stand guard at the site of an attack in Kabul on December 20, 2020. A car bomb targeting an Afghan lawmaker killed nine people and wounded more than a dozen in Kabul on December 20, officials said, the latest attack to rock the capital. / AFP / Zakeria HASHIMI

Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a women's rights activist and her brother north of Afghanistan's capital on Thursday in the latest of a wave of assassinations targeting prominent Afghans.

Freshta Kohistani, 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," interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said.

Kapisa provincial governor Abdul Latif Murad said that the shooting took 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, enjoyed a relatively large following on social media, and regularly organised civil society events in Kabul calling for women's rights.

Mr Abdullah said Kohistani was killed in a "terrorist attack".

In a Facebook post, he described Kohistani as a "brave and fearless" activist who was at the forefront of civil and social life in Afghanistan.

"The continuation of such assassinations is unacceptable," said Mr Abdullah, who leads the country's peace process as it engages in talks with Taliban insurgents to end nearly two decades of war.

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 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 have triggered fear across the country, especially in Kabul.

"The security situation is deteriorating day by day," said Ahmad Jawed, a government employee in Kabul.

"When we leave our homes in the morning, we are not sure we will return home alive by evening."

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, according to the Kabul-based Afghan Journalists Safety Committee.