NATO officials blamed two suicide bombers for the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, saying they were feigning a desire to conduct reconciliation talks.
KABUL – Hundreds of Afghans have gathered in Kabul to mourn High Peace Council chief Burhanuddin Rabbani and protest at his killing by a suicide bomber on Tuesday, World Peace Day, according to the BBC. Kabul was gridlocked as streets were sealed off around Rabbani’s home, where ex-colleagues arrived to pay respects.
Rabbani, head of the council charged with talking to the Taliban, was killed by a bomb hidden in a turban. At least four other people were killed in the blast and one of President Hamid Karzai’s key advisors, Masoom Stanekzai, was wounded.
Rabbani, 71, had been meeting Taliban commanders, returning from abroad a few days ago specifically for the talks. Peace Council member Fazel Karim Aymaq said two visitors were invited to the meeting on Tuesday who said they had “special messages” from the Taliban and were considered “very trustworthy”. “One of them put his head on the shoulder of Rabbani and detonated the explosives hidden in his turban,” Aymaq said.
NATO officials blamed two suicide bombers for the attack, saying they were feigning a desire to conduct reconciliation talks. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility saying that they appointed two articulate and well trained fighters to build contacts with Rabbani.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazail told the BBC the killing would not stop the peace process. He said: “Rabbani is not the first and he will not be the last prominent Afghan leader who has been killed by terrorists trying to derail the peace process. But we will continue with our efforts.”
Rabbani was ousted as president by the Taliban in 1996. After that he became the nominal head of the Northern Alliance. When they swept back into Kabul, backed by US forces, and toppled the Taliban in 2001, he was still recognised by the UN as the official president of Afghanistan. The killing is the latest in a series of assassinations of senior politicians and security commanders across the country. In July, President Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was killed at his home in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, by his own head of security. Two months earlier, Gen Daud Daud, the top police commander in northern Afghanistan was killed in a suicide bomb attack. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for most of these killings.
Karzai condemned the assassination Tuesday saying the former Afghan president sacrificed his life for the sake of Afghanistan and peace. He spoke ahead of a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, but cut short his visit because of the attack, according to Voice of America. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Rabbani’s assassination “in the strongest possible terms.” He said the U.N. remains committed to supporting Afghanistan and its people in attaining peace and stability and to working in close cooperation with them.