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Taliban denies brazen attack on prominent Afghan actress, director, police officer and women's advocate

A prominent Afghan movie director and actress, who also happens to be a high-ranking police officer and a critic of the Taliban, was recovering from gunshot wounds on Wednesday after an attack near her home. Saba Sahar was wounded in the attack by unknown gunmen on Tuesday morning in Kabul on her way to work, according to police and her family.

FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan policewoman turned filmmaker hurt in attack
Afghan film director Saba Sahar directs a scene for a television series in Kabul, May 30, 2011. Ahmad Masood/REUTERS

"Five minutes after she left home, I heard gunfire outside my house" her husband Emal Zaki told CBS News. "When I called my wife, she said that she was injured. I rushed to the scene and found her wounded."

Sahar, one of the first women to make a name for herself in Afghanistan's conservative society as a film director, is also a 10-year veteran of the capital's police force. She was recently promoted to a senior role in the special forces, overseeing gender issues — a theme she has often spoken of as an advocate for women's rights.

"I want to show that Afghan women are capable of doing anything men do," she told The Guardian in a 2012 interview. She has earned acclaim for relying on her police training to direct compelling dramas and documentaries about Afghan society.

Four bullets hit Sahar in the abdomen and her husband drove her to a private hospital in the capital on Tuesday. She was later transferred to a police hospital, Zaki told CBS News. In a separate interview, Zaki told the Reuters news agency that his wife was in a coma for 20 hours, but that by Wednesday she was "out of danger."

There were five people in her vehicle at the time of the attack, including one of Sahar's children, who was not harmed. Sahar's driver and one of her two guards were also hit and wounded.

In recent days, Kabul residents have seen an increase in small scale attacks and targeted assassinations, prompting officials at the Ministry of Interior to replace the city's police chief. According to a tally compiled by the New York Times, at least 17 explosions and assassinations have been carried out in Kabul over the last week.

Violence continues in Afghanistan despite U.S.-Taliban peace deal 07:11

Sahar's husband said his wife had no personnel feud with anyone and called the shooting a terrorist attack. 

Kabul police spokesman Ferwos Faramarz said the incident was under investigation.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a message sent to CBS News that the insurgent group had no involvement in the attack. Both Taliban and ISIS fighters are active in Kabul and conduct regular attacks in the city.

"The rise in attacks and assassination attempts on human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and film actors is extremely worrying," Amnesty International said in a statement. "These attacks must be investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable. The authorities must protect everyone at risk."

Afghan women fear they'll lose rights if the Taliban regains power 02:21

Afghan women have suffered greatly, but made significant progress since the Taliban regime was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. However, many women now fear the hard-won gains could be easily reversed if the Taliban wins back significant power through the pending peace process, which is being pushed by the U.S. government.

Fawzia Koofi, a former Afghan parliamentarian who is now a member of the government's negotiating team preparing for direct talks with the Taliban, was attacked just over a week ago in Kabul.

An outspoken critic of the Taliban, Koofi was shot in her right arm and hospitalized. The Taliban also denied any role in that attack.

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