Top Afghan peace negotiator shot dead in Kabul (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Sardar Ahmad 05/13/12)
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A senior Afghan peace negotiator and close ally of President Hamid
Karzai was shot dead Sunday, dealing a major blow to Kabul´s efforts
to broker peace with Taliban insurgents.
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.
Tributes to Rahmani and condemnation of his killing poured in from
President Hamid Karzai, neighbouring Pakistan, the UN, the US embassy
and NATO´s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
"Enemies of the Afghan people once again proved that they fear peace
in Afghanistan and resort to targeting those who seek dignity and
prosperity for Afghanistan and are working to ensure peace and
welfare in their country," Karzai said.
Pakistan is accused by the US and the Afghan government of harbouring
Taliban leaders. But the foreign ministry said in a statement: "Our
two countries face the common threat of terrorism, and Pakistan is
committed to work closely with Afghanistan to eliminate this scourge.
"Pakistan would continue to support all efforts that contribute to an
Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process in
ISAF said: "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."
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 US-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.
The Islamic militants in March pulled out of preliminary talks with
US officials in the Gulf state of Qatar, saying Washington had not
fulfilled agreed confidence-building pledges, among them releasing
five Taliban leaders held at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
For its part, Washington has consistently said any talks with the
Taliban to end the war could only take place with the agreement of
the Afghan government, which eventually should lead the process.
Rahmani, who was the Taliban´s higher education minister during their
rule from 1996 to 2001, joined Karzai´s government after the regime
was toppled by a US-led invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by
Al-Qaeda on New York and Washington.
He was one of several former Taliban leaders who were removed from a
UN sanctions list last July after lobbying by Karzai´s administration
in a bid to help the peace process.
Rahmani was known to have maintained ties with some Taliban leaders
after joining Karzai´s government. Before joining the HPC, the former
Taliban leader was a member of the senate, appointed by Karzai.
His death is the second major blow to Karzai´s US-backed peace
efforts in less than a year. The former head of the council, ex-
president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed last September by a suicide
bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.
Karzai last month appointed Rabbani´s son, the US-educated Salahuddin
Rabbani to replace his father. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France
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