Ex-Taliban leader-turned peace negotiator shot dead in Afghan capital

The Washington Post reports: A former Taliban leader-turned peace negotiator was assassinated by an unidentified gunmen in a brazen attack in the Afghan capital on Sunday.

Arsala Rahmani was gunned down by three armed men traveling in a car near a downtown part of the city as Rahmani headed to his office from his home, officials said.

“He died from bullet wound on the way to the hospital,” General Mohammad Zaher, chief for the criminal branch of Kabul police said by phone.

“It is a big loss for Afghanistan. He was thinking about peace and about key national issues,” said Nisar Hares, a lawmaker and close colleague of Rahmani who was also serving as senator apart from running a commission in the government-appointed High Peace Council (HPC).

The embassy of the United States, which is the main donor for the HPC, described the assassination as a tragedy.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killing. Taliban insurgents said they were not behind it, although the guerrillas, while announcing the launch of their annual spring offensive early this month, said the militants would target members of the HPC among others.

Last year, a suicide bomber, posing as an emissary for the Taliban insurgents, killed HPC head Burhanuddin Rabbani in his Kabul home. Rabbani’s killing led to the collapse of HPC’s unsuccessful efforts for reaching out to the insurgents.

Afghan government officials at the time accused neighboring Pakistan in the killing, with suspicion falling largely on the Taliban, which still has neither taken nor denied responsibility for the assassination.

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