Afghans mourn killing of peace envoy Rabbani

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 23:59

Kabul: Hundreds of Afghans marched in Kabul
today to mourn Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of the
government`s peace council, whose assassination threatens to
plunge the country into fresh turmoil.

Rabbani, president during Afghanistan`s 1992-96 civil war
and a warlord with a chequered human rights record, was killed
at his home Tuesday by a bomber thought to be a trusted
emissary bringing a special message from the Taliban.

Although there has been no communication from the Taliban
on the attack, his killing deals a heavy blow to already
remote hopes of ending 10 years of fighting between insurgents
and the Afghan government backed by Western troops.

President Hamid Karzai was rushing back to Kabul from a
visit to the United States, while an emergency cabinet meeting
was held to discuss plans to give Rabbani an official funeral
in the coming days, officials said.

Haji Shabudin, head of the secretariat of Rabbani`s
Jamiat-i-Islami party, confirmed the ceremony would take place
Friday in Kabul.

A source at the presidential palace speaking on
condition of anonymity said it would be a state funeral and
there would be three days of national mourning in Afghanistan
from Thursday.

Rabbani`s killing was the most high-profile political
assassination in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion
dislodged the Taliban.

That it happened in Kabul`s supposedly secure diplomatic
zone, close to the scene of last week`s 19-hour siege
targeting the US embassy, again highlights a sharp rise in
spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

People close to Rabbani said the attacker and an
accomplice were invited to his high-security villa as
emissaries bringing "special messages" from the Taliban.

Mohammad Ismail Qasemyar, a member of the High Peace
Council, said that the two men had been waiting to see Rabbani
for up to four days and were not searched before entering his
house as a sign of trust.

Although there were conflicting reports of who brought in
the bombers, a source close to Rabbani speaking anonymously
said they arrived with Mohammad Massom Stanikzai, one of
Rabbani`s deputies, who was among four people wounded in the
attack.

The source added that Rabbani had just returned from Iran
especially to meet the two, believing they were important
Taliban figures.

Another Peace Council member, Fazel Karim Aymaq, said the
two visitors claimed to have "special messages" from the
Taliban and were thought to be "very trusted".

The bomber detonated as he hugged Rabbani in greeting,
police said.

The High Peace Council put out a message today eulogising
Rabbani as a "great leader of jihad" as well as its chairman.

"His martyrdom is an expression of his ultimate sacrifice
to restore harmony in this country," the statement said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Rabbani was among
prominent Afghans implicated in war crimes during the brutal
fighting that killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of
Afghans in the early 1990s.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 23:59

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