ASADABAD, AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber assassinated an Afghan peace envoy and former mujahedeen commander on Friday, along with his son in an eastern region close to the Pakistan border, officials said.
Maulavi Mohammad Hashem Munib, the head of the High Peace Council in Kunar province, was the target, said provincial police chief Ewaz Mohammad Nazari.
“He was on his way home from Friday prayers when he was attacked by a suicide attacker,” he told AFP.
One witness said that both Munib and the attacker had been torn to pieces, with body parts littering the scene.
Kunar, which borders Pakistan, is a stronghold of the Taliban-led insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government and its Western allies.
The national head of the High Peace Council, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated last year by a purported Taliban envoy who hid a bomb in his turban.
Rabbani’s killing — Afghanistan’s most high-profile political assassination since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks — was a major setback to Karzai’s hopes of securing a deal with the militants.
As well as trying to negotiate with insurgents, the High Peace Council runs efforts to reconcile them with offers of money and jobs.
Munib was himself a former senior commander of Hezb-i Islami, one of the major Afghan mujahedeen groups that fought Soviet troops in the 1980s.
It is now sometimes regarded as the second-biggest insurgent organisation in Afghanistan after the Taliban, but Munib left it before Karzai took power and he had never taken up arms against the current government.
Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai, a senior official in the Peace Council, said: “With regret we have been made aware that Maulavi Mohammad Hashem Munib and his son have been martyred in a suicide attack in Kunar province.
“He was an influential figure in Afghanistan and had drawn many insurgents to lay down arms and join the peace process… He was targeted by the enemies of peace.”
Afghan officials frequently use the phrase “enemies of peace” to refer to the Taliban.
The Taliban could not immediately be reached for comment.
Progress towards peace negotiations in Afghanistan has been long, slow and complicated, with no sign that substantive talks are underway.
Kabul has said several times that it is in negotiations with the Taliban, who insisted in turn that they were only prepared to talk to the Americans, who say that the process should be Afghan-led.