A top Afghan peace negotiator was assassinated in Kabul on Sunday, dealing a major blow to efforts aimed at ending the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.
Authorities say Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council, was travelling in his car to Kabul’s highly-secured diplomatic center when he came under attack.
Police officials told reporters the slain peace negotiator was stuck in heavy traffic at an intersection in the western part of the Afghan capital when he was shot at from a nearby car with a silenced pistol.
Top officials at Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate are said to have personally informed Rahmani about possible threats to his life.
A spokesman for the security department, Shafiqullah Tahiri, says increased security around the residence of Rahmani discouraged “enemies of peace” from attacking him.
The spokesman says that when the enemies could not get an opportunity to attack the senior member of the peace council at his home, they ambushed and killed him on the road.
Rahmani had served as a deputy education minister when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. He recently reconciled with the government and was actively trying to promote contacts with the insurgents. The Taliban is reported to have denied links to the killing.
Rahmani’s assassination has dealt another major blow to the 70-member High Peace Council President Hamid Karzai established two years ago to try to persuade insurgent leaders to reconcile with his government.
The head of the council, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was also assassinated last year by a suicide bomber disguised as a Taliban messenger.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul condemned the murder of the peace council member while the NATO-led international coalition praised Arsala Rahmani for “turning his back” on the insurgents.
Neighboring Pakistan has also condemned the assassination, saying it is committed to work closely with Afghanistan to eliminate terrorism.