Afghan actress turned police officer recovering after ambush in Kabul

Special Afghan actress turned police officer recovering after ambush in Kabul
Female Afghan film director Saba Sahar directs a scene for a television series in Kabul. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 26 August 2020

Afghan actress turned police officer recovering after ambush in Kabul

Afghan actress turned police officer recovering after ambush in Kabul
  • Vocal Taliban critic and woman’s rights campaigner Saba Sahar suffered four gunshot wounds
  • Probe underway to catch culprits, officials say

KABUL: Renowned former actress Saba Sahar, one of Afghanistan’s first female film directors, is recovering in hospital after sustaining four bullet wounds during an attack on Tuesday, Aug. 25, when gunmen opened fire on her car in the capital Kabul.

“Sahar had just left home and was heading for the office in her official car with one of her kids, a bodyguard and her driver, when three gunmen in an alley in the eastern part of Kabul opened fire on her before fleeing,” Aimal Zaki, her husband, told Arab News.

Zaki, who was home at the time of the incident, added that a short while after Sahar left home on Tuesday, he “heard gunshots” and was told she had been wounded when he called to check on her.

“We reached the site, she had received four bullets in her abdominal area, the driver and bodyguard were also wounded, my daughter was well, and we immediately rushed Sahar to the hospital,” he said.

Describing it as “a very dangerous ambush,” he added: “The gunmen, according to the driver of the car, were armed with an AK-47. She was in a coma until early this morning, but is out of danger now and in the recovery unit of the police hospital.”

Sahar, 44, is one of Afghanistan’s most famous actors, a campaigner for women’s rights and is considered a vocal critic of the Taliban.

After working as an independent director for several years and with eight films to her name, she finally retired from the film industry in 2015.

Her latest film, released this year, depicted the role and significance of female police officers during crackdown operations against insurgent groups such as the Taliban and Daesh.

She is currently serving as the deputy head of the gender department for the police’s special force, after working as a police officer for more than a decade.

Officials described Tuesday’s incident as the latest in a chain of targeted attacks by the Taliban on security forces, despite no one claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.

“An assessment is underway to nab the culprits,” Ferdaus Faramarz, a spokesman for Kabul police told Arab News.

Tariq Aryan, chief spokesman for the interior ministry, said the attack was “part of a pattern of terrorist attacks,” accusing the Taliban of involvement.

“The Taliban are behind such attacks as they have repeatedly warned government security officials in the past to abandon their duties. A bigger picture of this attack could be to frighten women who serve in security organs,” he told Arab News.

Tuesday’s attack occurred amid the backdrop of the yet-to-start intra-Afghan talks — where the Taliban have repeatedly pledged to uphold women’s rights — and takes place just ten days after unidentified shooters attacked another prominent woman in the country.

Former lawmaker Fawzia Koofi, who is a women’s rights advocate and a member of the negotiating team with the Taliban, sustained minor injuries in the attack on Aug. 16 which took place when the gunmen attacked her car in the north of Kabul.

Authorities investigating the incident said they had yet to ascertain the motive and identity of the attackers, even as Koofi said that it was the “work of peace spoilers.”

Other woman lawmakers agreed.

“Their (the Taliban’s) intention from such attacks is to frighten women from working in government, especially in security. This has become a worrying matter for some,” Nazifa Zaki, a legislator from Kabul, told Arab News.

She said the attack on Sahar was part of similar targeted attacks by the Taliban on women “who either worked as military or civilian officials” in various parts of Afghanistan in recent years.

Reactions poured in from across the world on Wednesday, with Amnesty International saying that there had been an “extremely worrying” rise in attacks on film actors, political activists and human rights defenders in Afghanistan recently, while Ross Wilson, a top US diplomat in Kabul, described the attack as “despicable” on Twitter.

“The attack was part of a wave of growing violence and routine targeted killings in Kabul, which show how much the city has become more insecure,” Shafiq Hapal, an analyst and a university teacher, told Arab News.