Top Afghan peace envoy shot dead

Top Afghan peace envoy shot dead

Top Afghan peace envoy shot dead

Arsala Rahmani was active in trying to set up formal talks with the insurgents. REUTERS photo

An assassin armed with a silenced pistol shot dead a top member of the Afghan peace council yesterday at a traffic intersection in Kabul, striking a further blow to peace efforts, a day after two British soldiers serving in Afghanistan were killed by insurgents.

Arsala Rahmani was a former Taliban official who reconciled with the government and was active in trying to set up formal talks with the insurgents. He was shot at an intersection in western Kabul by a gunman in a white Toyota Corolla while being driven to his office, said Mohammad Zahir, head of the city police’s criminal investigation division. He did not have a bodyguard with him at the time.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the killing, although they had earlier indicated that they would target peace negotiators. Rahmani was one of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed by President Hamid Karzai to try to convince insurgent leaders to reconcile with the government. The U.S. has backed the council’s efforts to pull the Taliban into political discussions with Kabul as part of its strategy for reducing violence and turning over responsibility to Afghan forces so international combat troops can go home or move into support roles by the end of 2014. But this effort suffered a major setback in September 2011 when former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was head of the peace council, was assassinated by a suicide bomber.

Meanwhile, two soldiers shot dead in southern Afghanistan by local police officers were British, the Ministry of Defense confirmed yesterday a day after the killings. The ministry said in a statement that the two were “shot and killed by members of the Afghan police force,” although NATO’s force in Afghanistan, ISAF, had on May 12 indicated the killers were insurgents dressed as police.

A police spokesman said they were members of the force, however, and an Afghan security official said they had been in the police force for about a year. The killings bring this year’s toll in “green-on-blue” attacks, in which Afghan forces turn their weapons against their Western allies, to 22, in a total of 16 such incidents.