Peace negotiator shot dead in Kabul
Murder of former Taliban minister a blow to negotiations
Former Taliban minister turned government peace negotiator Arsala
Rahmani has been shot to death while he sat in traffic in Kabul. Rahmani
was the second senior member of President Hamid Karzai's high peace
council to be killed in less than a year, after a suicide bomber
targeted the group's head, Burhanuddin Rabbani last year.
Arsala Rahmani was one of several former members of the Taliban who were removed from a U.N. blacklist in July 2011, eliminating a travel ban and an assets freeze in a move seen as key to promoting the peace effort.
"There was only one bullet. They shot him through the small back window," Wares told journalists. "They took him to the hospital, but he passed away there."
The news overshadowed a security transfer designed to showcase Afghanistan's ability to tackle the insurgency on its own. The killing was a blow to Karzai's hopes of bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table as western troops head home rather than try to fight them into submission.
The killer remains at large, and the Taliban denied any role in the shooting, although the group has a standing threat against members of the high peace council. It has said it will not negotiate with the government of Karzai, whom it has condemned as a "puppet."
Diplomats say the Taliban had the most immediate motive for targeting someone who was a figurehead for government efforts to negotiate. "The obvious message is that there is no way of relating to the Taliban other than through their formal channels, the political committee and the leadership," one senior diplomat said. "I don't think it's because he'd tried anything spectacular, I think it's more that he is considered a traitor."
Rahmani served as prime minister under a previous government. In recent years the septuagenarian's black-dyed beard and black turban were a familiar sight at gatherings of the powerful or influential.
He was one of several former members of the Taliban who were removed from a U.N. blacklist in July 2011, eliminating a travel ban and an assets freeze in a move seen as key to promoting the peace effort.
The NATO-led coalition says that the assassination suggested the Taliban had little interest in negotiating an end to the war. "This attack is clear evidence that those who oppose the legitimate government of Afghanistan have absolutely no interest in supporting the peace process on any level but through murder, thuggery, and intimidation," the International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
Karzai announced the start of the third phase of a gradual security handover to the Afghan police and army, designed to pave the way for all foreign soldiers to return home by the end of 2014, just before Rahmani's murder.
The extension included challenging areas such as the city of Kandahar, once the Taliban's main centre of power, and in theory puts the capitals of all Afghanistan's provinces under the control of the national army and police.
The announcement was welcomed as a sign of progress by the army and police, which have been expanding rapidly and long struggled to deal with a host of problems ranging from rampant drug abuse to corruption and high levels of attrition.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Arsala Rahmani, murder, Afghanistan, Taliban, NATO
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