Police hunt ex-husband of murdered Afghan journalist Mina Mangal

Afghan police have launched a manhunt for the ex-husband of murdered Afghan journalist Mina Mangal. She was shot to death on her way to work by unknown gunmen on Saturday; her parents suspect he is behind the killing.

Police in Afghanistan were searching for the ex-husband of murdered journalist Mina Mangal on Monday, after her family said they believed him to be the person who fatally shot her over the weekend.

Mangal, who was also a cultural adviser for the Afghan parliament, was killed by unknown gunmen on Saturday when she was leaving home for work in the Karte Naw area of Kabul.

Mangal's parents said that the ex-husband, who their daughter divorced one week before her death, is responsible for the killing, Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid.

In a Facebook post published before her death, Mangal said she had been threatened but would continue to carry out her work, without providing details of the nature or source of the threat.

Read more: Afghanistan: Peace without women's rights?

Kidnapped by in-laws

Mina Mangal's brother, Shakib Mangal, told DW that his sister had once been abducted by her husband's family.

He said his family has now filed a complaint against both his sister's ex-husband and that man's parents.

"Her in-laws had abducted her two years ago but we were able to get her released with the help of some government officials and tribal elders," Mangal said. "Her ex-husband, however, continued threaenting Mina Manga."

"Now that Mina is gone, I, my wife and children, my five other sisters and my parents continue to face threats," he said.

Shakib Mangal said that despite vowing not to oppose his sister working as a journalist before their wedding, his sister's ex-husband had tried to stop her from working both during and after their marriage.

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Women scared to work outside home

Kabul-based women's rights activist Robina Hamdard, from the Afghan Women's Network, told DW that target killings of women outside their homes could force other women to stay home out of fear for their safety.

"We are concerned about the situation because it has a direct impact on women who work outside their homes," Hamdard said. "Female journalists are changing their professions due to the increasing risks they are facing."

Afghanistan has low rankings for gender equality, with women facing issues such as forced marriages, honor killings and domestic violence, particularly in rural areas.

As US-Taliban peace talks gain momentum, many women fear losing the few hard-earned freedoms they have gained since US-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

During the Taliban's rule from 1996-2001, women were barred from working outside their homes and were required to be accompanied by a male relative.

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International condolences

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the US Embassy in Afghanistan have spoken out against the killing, with Trudeau calling it an "unacceptable tragedy."

"Mangal was a brave journalist and advocate for women and girls, whose work was vital to advancing gender equality not only in Afghanistan, but around the world," Trudeau wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Women's rights activist Wazhma Frogh said Mangal "had a loud voice" and actively spoke out as an advocate for her people.

"Can't stop my tears at the loss of this beautiful soul," Frogh wrote on Twitter.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Fragile security

Repeated attacks in Afghanistan over the past several months have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent Afghans, and shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

A long series of attacks

The violent incidents have made Afghanistan once again a staple of international headlines. Outfits like the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Spring offensive

Last week, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted last year, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Trump's Afghanistan policy

US President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan last year, vowing to deploy more troops, on top of the 11,000 already in the country, to train and advise Afghan security forces. Trump also pledged to support Afghan troops in their war against the Taliban and maintain American presence in the country for as long as there was a need for it.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Afghan peace process

Despite President Ghani's offer in February for peace talks "without preconditions," the Taliban have shown no interest, dismissing the peace overtures as a "conspiracy." Observers say it is unlikely that the militant group will engage in any negotiations, as they currently have the upper hand on the battleground. The Taliban now control more Afghan districts than at any other time since 2001.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Pakistani support

Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies and insists that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated. Kabul and Islamabad regularly trade accusations of harboring the other country's militants and the harsh language has underscored the strains between them.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Role of the warlords

Apart from the Taliban, Afghan warlords exercise massive influence in the country. Last year, Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after a 20-year exile to play an active role in Afghan politics. In September 2016, the Afghan government signed a deal with Hekmatyar in the hope that other warlords and militant groups would seek better ties with Kabul.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

An inefficient government

In the midst of an endless battle for power, President Ghani's approval ratings continue to plummet. Rampant corruption in the Afghan government and a long tug-of-war within the US-brokered national unity government has had a negative impact on the government's efforts to eradicate terrorism.

law/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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