Kabul: An assassin armed with a silenced pistol shot dead a top member of the Afghan peace council on Sunday at a traffic intersection in the nation`s capital, police said. The killing strikes another blow to efforts to negotiate a political resolution to the decade-long war.
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. His assassination follows that of the council`s head last year.
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.
"Only one shot was fired," Zahir said. "Our initial reports are that it was a pistol with a silencer. Rahmani died on the way to the hospital." Zahir said an investigation was under way.
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 the council to try to convince insurgent leaders to reconcile with the government.
The Taliban have refused to have direct contact with the council, which they consider to be an organ of Karzai`s government. They have said publicly in the past that they do not want to negotiate with Karzai or his administration, which they consider a puppet of the United States.
Privately, however, some representatives of the Taliban who are open to negotiating a settlement have met with US, Afghan and other international officials. Rahmani, along with other members of the peace council, was trying to forge relations with those Taliban amenable to peace talks.