TALIBAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR SHOT DEAD IN AFGHANISTAN
- A senior Afghan peace negotiator and close ally of President Hamid Karzai was shot dead Sunday, 13 dealing a major blow to Kabul's efforts to broker peace with Taliban insurgents, AFP reported.
Arsala Rahmani, a former minister in the Taliban regime, was a "key negotiator" in the High Peace Council (HPC) established by Karzai to hold talks with the insurgents.
"Shortly after leaving home he was hit by a single bullet from a passing car" as he was driving to work in Kabul, Rahmani's grandson Mohammad Waris told AFP.
The Taliban, who have waged a decade-long insurgency aimed at toppling Karzai's government, threatened earlier this month to target members of the HPC as part of their "spring offensive".
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, however, denied involvement in Sunday's killing. The rebels are known to deny high-profile assassinations and attacks with many civilian casualties.
Neighbouring Pakistan and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) condemned the assassination.
Pakistan, which is accused by the U.S. and the Afghan government of harbouring Taliban leaders, said: "Our two countries face the common threat of terrorism, and Pakistan is committed to work closely with Afghanistan to eliminate this scourge.
"Rahmani, a former Taliban member, chose to make a positive contribution to his nation by turning his back on an insurgent movement that continues to be wholly detrimental to the future of Afghanistan," ISAF said.
The HPC was established by Karzai in 2010 to negotiate peace with the Taliban and other insurgents waging war against his administration and some 130,000 U.S.-led NATO troops.
Rahmani "had recently established contacts with senior Taliban leaders", a senior security official told AFP, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The Taliban have publicly rejected Karzai's calls for peace, calling him a puppet of the Americans and insisting on the complete withdrawal of Western troops.
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