Taliban silence on Rabbani hints at splits within

The lack of clarity on the identity of the assassins fans concern about nebulous insurgency in Afghanistan.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2011, 00:27 AM IST

Kabul: The Taliban`s "no comment" on the murder of Afghanistan`s peace broker highlights splits within the militia and a plethora of factions who may have wanted him dead, which threaten fresh chaos.

Experts now suspect that the turban bomber who killed Burhanuddin Rabbani by claiming to bring a special message from the Taliban may not have been sent by the militia`s supreme leader Mullah Omar, or had his approval.

With a range of factions standing to benefit from Rabbani`s death, the lack of clarity on the identity of the assassins fans concern about political instability, ethnic tensions and a nebulous insurgency in Afghanistan.

"Whether the assassination of Rabbani was authorised by the Taliban leadership, or was an operation by rogue Taliban or indeed, whether it was conducted by non-Taliban, one would expect an authorised Taliban response, whether it is confirmation or denial or condemnation," said Kate Clark of
the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

"Instead, there has been confusion and silence." This "may indicate division in the senior ranks about this assassination and what they want to say about it," Clark said.

After the killing, the Taliban`s two main spokesmen -- usually swift to claim attacks and exaggerate casualty tolls -- were unusually quiet.

Their phones were switched off, they did not send their usual stream of text messages to reporters and there was nothing about the death on their glossy website, Voice of Jihad.

Police and other officials said the attack was carried out by a Taliban bomber who waited for the Afghan former president for up to four days, thought to be carrying a special message from the militia.

Finally, nearly 24 hours after the attack, the Taliban issued a "no comment" statement on Wednesday, angrily rebutting reports in some media that they had claimed responsibility.

"Until we receive more information and our information is complete, our position is that we cannot say anything on this issue," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in Pashto.

With Afghanistan plunged into national mourning ahead of tomorrow`s state funeral for Rabbani, Mujahid said today that the Taliban were still investigating who the attackers were.

"If the leadership knew (their identity), they would have shared it with us," he said. "We`re investigating at the moment to find out who did this and who they were and who had sent them."

Bureau Report