Former Afghan Taliban minister shot dead in Peshawar

Published February 17, 2014
This undated photograph released by the Afghan Taliban on February 17, 2014, shows Mullah Abdul Raqeeb. –AFP
This undated photograph released by the Afghan Taliban on February 17, 2014, shows Mullah Abdul Raqeeb. –AFP
Pakistani residents stand near the body of Mullah Abdul Raqeeb at a hospital in Peshawar on February 17, 2014. – AFP
Pakistani residents stand near the body of Mullah Abdul Raqeeb at a hospital in Peshawar on February 17, 2014. – AFP

PESHAWAR: A former minister of the Afghan Taliban who was in favour of peace talks with the Kabul government was gunned down in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar on Monday, Afghan Taliban sources said.

“Armed assailants riding on a motorbike shot Mullah Abdul Raqeeb, a former minister for refugees during the Taliban regime, killing him on the spot,” a member of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan told AFP.

Speaking from Afghanistan, another Taliban member said Raqeeb was part of a group in Peshawar “which is in favour of making some connection with the Afghan government over possible peace talks.”

Raqeeb was coming out of a religious seminary where he had been teaching when he was attacked.

Senior Peshawar police officer Muhammad Faisal confirmed the murder.

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened last June was meant to lead to peace talks, but instead it enraged Afghan President Hamid Karzai after it was styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.

Public efforts at reconciliation have since been frozen.

In a written statement, another former Afghan minister Aga Jan Motasim said leaders and jihadi commanders of the Afghan Taliban were being targeted in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.

“Mullah Abdul Raqeeb was working for a peaceful Afghanistan,” said the statement.

He praised Raqeeb, terming him a learned scholar, politician, social worker and “guardian of thousands of orphans.”

On Thursday, the Afghan government released scores of alleged Taliban fighters from Bagram prison, leading to criticism from the United States.

Some analysts say the releases could help kickstart the moribund peace talks with the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001.

Pakistan is seen as crucial to peace in neighbouring Afghanistan as it was a key backer of the hardline 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul.

Monday's killing in Peshawar came weeks after an influential cleric close to the one-eyed spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban was killed in Quetta.

Senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban have been repeatedly targeted and killed in Quetta and Peshawar but nobody has ever claimed responsibility.

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