KABUL, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb killed a provincial peace negotiator and two police officers in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, dealing another setback to President Hamid Karzai’s attempts to get talks started with Taliban militants after more than 11 years of conflict.
Malim Shah Wali Khan, 53, and his security detail were driving through the volatile southern province of Helmand when militants detonated the bomb, killing him and two of his bodyguards, according to the provincial governor’s office.
Four other police officers were injured in the attack. When the blast occurred, Khan and his security team were on their way to a meeting to discuss plans for the ongoing handover of security responsibilities in the province from U.S.-led troops to Afghan forces.
Khan was the Helmand director for the High Peace Council, the group Karzai formed to begin brokering peace talks with the Taliban. So far, Karzai’s team has failed to make much progress bringing the militants to the negotiating table.
In a statement, Helmand provincial leaders called Khan’s slaying "a big loss for the residents of Helmand" and condemned "this brutal act of insurgents." Helmand is a major stronghold for the Taliban and has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between insurgents and international troops.
Karzai’s negotiating team has suffered other major setbacks in recent years. In 2011, his top negotiator, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed at his home when a man who said he was a Taliban emissary detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.
At the time, several senior Afghan officials blamed Pakistan’s top spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, for facilitating the attack, a contention Pakistani officials strongly denied. Rabbani has since been replaced by his son, Salahuddin Rabbani, as Karzai’s top peace negotiator.
Also on Wednesday, British authorities confirmed three of their soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand province the previous day. Taliban militants have stepped up attacks on foreign and Afghan forces since announcing the start of their spring offensive Saturday.
Times special correspondent Baktash reported from Kabul, and Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.