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Afghan woman MP released after three weeks in Taliban captivity

By Dylan Welch

KABUL (Reuters) - A female Afghan parliamentarian held captive by Taliban for three weeks has been released in a prisoner exchange, Taliban and government officials said on Saturday.

Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a member of the Afghan lower house, was kidnapped on August 13 when travelling by car through the restive eastern province of Ghazni.

She was the second female parliamentarian to be attacked in Ghazni in less than a week, and her abduction highlighted concerns about a recent spate of often deadly assaults on women working in state institutions.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Kakar had been exchanged for four female and two child relatives of Taliban officials held by the government.

"Today, the Islamic Emirate handed (Kakar) back over to her relatives via a prisoner exchange," Mujahid said, referring to the name the Taliban used during their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan.

A Kakar family member, who declined to be named, also confirmed that the MP had been released.

Restoring women's right has been a cornerstone of the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, but the recent spate of attacks is fuelling concern that such rights are eroding as international forces prepare to withdraw next year.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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