Influential Afghan Peace Council Member Slain
May 13, 2012
by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
A former Taliban official who became a negotiator and key member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council has been shot dead in the capital, Kabul.
The assassination is seen as a setback to the Afghan government's effort to negotiate a political solution to the ongoing battle against Taliban militants.
Police say Arsala Rahmani was in his vehicle when he was killed by an unknown gunman in the western part of the city.
Kabul Deputy Police Chief Daud Amin told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan the attack took place "right in front of his house while his bodyguards were with him. He was killed. We have the information and now our investigating team has been sent there.”
The Taliban denied responsibility, although its militants had indicated earlier that they would target peace negotiators.
"Others are involved in this," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The Taliban said his death would not alter peace talks.
Part Of Talks
Rahmani was on his way to a meeting with lawmakers and other officials in a government-run media center in the heavily barricaded diplomatic center of Kabul when he was killed.
Wahid Mujda, a prominent analyst in Afghanistan on Taliban affairs, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Rahmani had a significant role in ongoing negotiations.
"Rahmani was the head of the prisoners’ commission on the Afghan High Peace Council, and he was working on the issue of who should be release from prison," Mujda said.
He said Rahmani had proposed the release of five detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, "and the High Peace Council also had raised the issue several times."
"So Rahmani was one of the important and influential figures on the High Peace Council," Mujda said.
The United States condemned what is described as an "assassination by the enemies of stability and security."
A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul praised the High Peace Council's work "for a durable, long-term peace in Afghanistan." It said the United States will "continue to stand alongside the Afghan government and people against terrorism and to work with them on behalf of a secure and prosperous Afghanistan."
No one has been arrested in connection with the shooting.
The 70-or-so-member High Peace Council appears to have made little progress in negotiating with the Taliban to end the war, now in its 11th year.
The son of former Afghan leader Burhanuddin Rabbani was recently named to replace his father atop the peace jirga, after the elder Rabbani was assassinated in September by a suspected Taliban suicide bomber.
Rahmani served as a deputy minister of higher education in the Taliban regime that was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
He reconciled with Karzai's government after the Taliban's fall from power and subsequently served in parliament.
* CORRECTION: This article initially suggested Rahmani was a minister under the Taliban. In fact, he was a deputy minister of education.
With additional reporting by Reuters
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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