Afghan peace council member killed

Shot by gunman in Kabul; follows 2011 assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani

Written by Associated Press | Kabul | Published:May 14, 2012 12:51 am

An assassin armed with a silenced pistol shot dead a top member of the Afghan peace council Sunday at a traffic intersection in the nation’s capital,the police said. The killing strikes another blow to efforts to negotiate a political resolution to the decade-long war.

Arsala Rahmani was a former Taliban official who reconciled with the government and was active in trying to set up formal talks with the insurgents. His assassination follows that of the council’s head last year.

He was shot at an intersection in western Kabul by a gunman in a white Toyota Corolla while being driven to his office,said Mohammad Zahir,head of the city police’s criminal investigation division. He did not have a bodyguard with him at the time.

“Only one shot was fired,’’ Zahir said. “Our initial reports are that it was a pistol with a silencer. Rahmani died on the way to the hospital.’’ Zahir said an investigation was under way. The Taliban denied responsibility for the killing,although they had earlier indicated that they would target peace negotiators.

Rahmani was one of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed by President Hamid Karzai to the council to try to convince insurgent leaders to reconcile with the government.

The Taliban have refused to have direct contact with the council,which they consider to be an organ of Karzai’s government. Privately,however,some representatives of the Taliban who are open to negotiating a settlement have met with US,Afghan and other international officials. Rahmani,along with other members of the peace council,was trying to forge relations with those Taliban amenable to peace talks. It was unclear if a faction within the Taliban could have been responsible for the shooting.

The last substantive discussions between US officials and Taliban representatives were in January,and both initiatives to build trust and move toward real peace talks are in limbo.

On Twitter,the US Embassy in Kabul called the assassination of another peace council member “a tragedy.’’ NATO praised Rahmani for “turning his back’’ on the insurgent movement and said his contributions will be missed. “The only possible aim of this attack is to intimidate those,who like Rahmani,want to help make Afghanistan a better place for its citizens and the region,’’ the coalition said in a statement.

The initiative suffered an earlier blow in September 2011 when former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani,who was head of the council,was assassinated by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban. Kabul blamed the Pakistan-based Taliban for his killing,though the Taliban denies this.

British soldiers shot in Afghanistan
LONDON:
The two NATO soldiers who were shot dead in Afghanistan by men wearing local police uniforms on Saturday were British,the UK’s Ministry of Defence said. Officials said Sunday it is not year clear whether the assailants were official Afghan Police Force members or disguised insurgents. “We don’t yet know what the motive was,“ British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC.

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