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Afghan Security Official Says Senior Taliban Member Killed For Seeking Peace Talks

KABUL -- Afghanistan's security chief has announced that a top-ranking member of the Afghan Taliban has been captured and killed in Pakistan along with 25 other militia members for seeking to resume peace talks.

Radio Free Afghanistan reports that Rahmatullah Nabil, the head of Afghanistan's National Security Directorate, told the Afghan Senate on May 1 that Mullah Ismail, the deputy head of the Afghan Taliban's military council, had been killed.

Nabil suggested fellow Taliban members were to blame for the killings, which also targeted senior Taliban commander Ustad Yasir, among others.

"Mullah Ismail, together with 25 other people, including Yasir, were detained because they were on the way to the airport to fly and join talks on peace in Afghanistan and to say they want peace and don't want to fight," he said. "All of them have been killed, and it has been said that the Taliban killed them or that the Taliban might have killed them."

Nabil's statement before the upper house of the Afghan parliament appears to end days of speculation that Ismail had been killed.

Several Afghan officials had previously given off-the-record comments about Ismail's death, alternately suggesting that the Taliban or Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency was behind the killings.

On May 1, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, dismissed reports that Ismail and his fellow militia members had been killed, saying it was propaganda spread by the group's rivals.

Mujahid said Ismail was alive and in good health.

Corruption Scandal

Ismail had been at the heart of a corruption scandal within the Taliban ranks.

He and several other high-ranking Taliban officials were arrested by militia leadership in April for reportedly accepting large amounts of cash and property from the Afghan government.

The payments were said to be in exchange for protecting NATO and Afghan convoys crossing the Afghan-Pakistan border.

A 2010 investigation by the U.S. Congress found that much of the $2 billion the Pentagon provided to support American troops in Afghanistan went toward paying Taliban commanders for protection.

But some reports have suggested Ismail was being paid to participate in peace talks with Afghan officials.

The Afghan Taliban in March broke off peace talks with U.S. and Afghan negotiators in Qatar, calling them "pointless."

Some observers have suggested Ismail's arrest and killing will make Taliban leaders even more wary of returning to talks out of fear they will appear to be colluding with the U.S. in exchange for money.

Afghan security chief Nabil urged Afghan Taliban leaders not to travel to Qatar or Dubai for peace talks but to negotiate directly with government officials inside Afghanistan.

With reporting by AFP and

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