NEWS

Key Afghan peace negotiator killed in Kabul

05/13/2012 08:17 EDT | Updated 07/13/2012 05:12 EDT

A former high-ranking member of the Taliban who became a peace negotiator in Afghanistan has been shot and killed while on his way to work in Kabul.

Arsala Rahmani, a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai, was hit by a single bullet from a passing car as he travelled in another vehicle in the west part of the Afghan capital on Sunday, said Mohammad Zahir, head of the city police's criminal investigation division.

Rahmani, 68, did not have a bodyguard with him at the time. He died on the way to hospital, Zahir said.

"Although he was a veteran of the war during the Soviets' occupation of Afghanistan, he was one of a handful who decided to not join the insurgency when U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban back in 2001," freelance journalist Dominic Valitis told CBC.

In the 1980s he was a major commander fighting the Soviets. In 2001, he fled to Pakistan and spent three years trying to get back into the country. Karzai eventually relented and let him return in 2005.

Two years ago, Karzai asked him personally to join the country's newly formed High Peace Council. Its role was to set up formal negotiations between the government and insurgents.

Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Karzai, said the government has "strongly condemned" the killing and he called it "shocking news to the Afghan people, to the government of Afghanistan, and the president."

"Arsala Rahmani's death is the action of Afghanistan's enemy and the action of the enemy of peace and stability in Afghanistan," he said.

"As part of this council, Rahmani played a key role in reconciling hundreds of Taliban field commanders," Valitis said.

Police say the assassin was armed with a silenced pistol and fired at Rahamni at an intersection.

The killing strikes another blow to efforts to negotiate a political resolution to the decade-long war.

The Taliban has denied responsibility for sunday's shooting, although they had earlier indicated that they would target peace negotiators.

This was the second high-profile killing of a member of the peace council in a year.

On Sept. 20, the head of the council and a former president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.

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