Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ex-Taliban Official with Role in Peace Talks Assassinated

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ex-Taliban Official with Role in Peace Talks Assassinated

Article excerpt

Mullah Arsala Rahmani, known as a relative moderate, was killed by a gunman who escaped. His assassination will effect the peace process, said a fellow member of the High Peace Council, Muallawi Shafiullah Nuristani.

Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister who was an important go-between in potential peace talks, was shot and killed on Sunday as he headed to a government meeting on reconciliation, Afghan officials said.

Mr. Rahmani, who lived openly in Kabul under close protection from the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, was killed in his car by a gunman who escaped, according to a fellow member of the High Peace Council, Muallawi Shafiullah Nuristani.

"His assassination is a big loss," Mr. Shafiullah said. "It will affect the peace process because he played an important role in mediating the peace talks and was a trusted person among the Taliban." Mr. Rahmani had been the minister of higher education during the Taliban regime and was known as a relative moderate.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, reached by telephone, denied the organization was responsible for the killing. Although Mr. Rahmani often acted as an informal spokesman for the Taliban during talks, the insurgents had disavowed him as an interlocutor. The Taliban had threatened to kill members of the High Peace Council as part of their spring offensive, local news reports said.

In September, a Taliban emissary to the High Peace Council hid a bomb in his turban and assassinated the head of the council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president. "It is true that at the beginning of our spring operation we announced that among many other entities and individuals we will target members of the so- called High Peace Council," Mr. Mujahid said, "and we are still committed to our campaign against the so-called members of the so- called High Peace Council, but again I insist that the Taliban were not behind today's assassination. …

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