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Afghan National Army soldiers secure the gate of the military hospital after Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban official turned Afghan peace negotiator, was killed by an unknown attacker. Rahmat Gul/AP

Leading Afghan peace negotiator shot dead by unidentified gunman

Arsala Rahmani – a former minister in the Taliban administration – is killed, in a major blow to Hamid Karzai’s efforts for peace.

A FORMER MINISTER in the Taliban administration of Afghanistan, who had become one of the country’s leading negotiators for peace, has been shot dead in Kabul.

Arsala Rahmani, a member of President Hamid Karzai’s council seeking to find peace with the country’s insurgent rebels, was killed at a traffic intersection by an unidentified gunman.

Police officials said Rahmani, a former deputy education minister who had been recently been removed from a UN blacklist of former Taliban members, was being driven to work by his nephew at the time of the attack.

Rahmani, who was in his 70s, did not have a bodyguard. Reuters reported that the gunman used a silencer, meaning that his nephew was not immediately aware of the attack.

Rahmani’s death follows that of the leader of the peace council, who was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber last September. In that case, Burhannudin Rabbani died when a man posing as a Taliban peace envoy detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.

The Taliban has denied involvement in Rahmani’s murder, however, saying that while it had planned a “spring offensive” against members of the peace council, it was not responsible for this morning’s attack.

On Twitter, the US embassy in Kabul called the assassination “a tragedy”, while NATO praised Rahmani for “turning his back” on the insurgent movement and said his contributions will be missed.

“The only possible aim of this attack is to intimidate those, who like Rahmani, want to help make Afghanistan a better place for its citizens and the region,” the group said in a statement.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said work toward reconciliation with the Taliban would continue despite Rahmani’s killing.

Additional reporting by AP

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