September 21st, 2011
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Former Afghan President Rabbani assassinated

burhanuddin-rabbaniIslamabad: A Taliban suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban assassinated Afghanistan’s former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, at 6pm on Tuesday. The Chairman of the High Peace Council was leading the year old peace talks with the insurgents. He was killed at his residence in the centre of Kabul’s high security diplomatic district.

The attacker had been invited into Rabbani’s Kabul home with an accomplice because it was thought they were emissaries bringing “special messages” from the Taliban. The bomb was detonated as the attacker hugged Rabbani in greeting. “A turbaned bomber entered Prof. Rabbani’s house an blew himself up”, said Mohammad Zahir, chief of criminal investigation of Kabul police. Speculation is that he concealed the explosive in his turban knowing very well that the local security would hesitate to search the turban because it is seen as disrespectful. An anonymous source said Rabbani had been in Dubai when he had been called and asked to come back and meet two senior Taliban leaders. “He just came from the airport from Dubai when he was attacked and killed,” the source added.

Another member of President Hamid Karzai’s reconciliation team Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, who was at the meeting, was injured in the blast. This death is the most high-profile political assassination since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power. Interior ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddqui said Stanikzai’s condition was “better and we hope he will recover.”

The bomber was killed while the injured accomplice was arrested, a source close to Rabbani who spoke on condition of anonymity said. The High Peace Council has made little clear progress towards peace talks with the Taliban and Rabbani’s assassination seems to have dealt a serious blow to its chances of doing so anytime soon. But Karzai along with the United States and other countries insisted the peace process would not be derailed.

The Pakistan government condemned the terrorist attack and conveyed its ” extreme anger and shock” to the “brotherly people” and government of Afghanistan.”The people of Pakistan stand by their Afghan brothers and sisters in this movement of grief on losing a visionary leader who was actively pursuing peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Burhauddin Rabbani was a friend of Pakistan with whom we were working closely …on a vision for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan president called Rabbani an “Afghan patriot who sacrificed his life.”  “This will not deter us from continuing down the path we have started”, he added. President Barack Obama said the killing was a “senseless act of violence” that would not crush the Afghan drive for freedom while NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen added that those behind the killing “will not prevail.”

There are 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, mainly from the US and under NATO command, but all combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014. Rabbani’s house where the bomber struck is very close to the US embassy, making it the second attack within a week in Kabul’s supposedly secure diplomatic zone. Last week, 14 people died in a 19-hour siege targeting the embassy. The latest killing prompted Karzai to cut short his visit to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly, his spokesman said. A scheduled meeting with Obama did go ahead before he left.

Rabbani, 71, was president of Afghanistan from 1992 until the Taliban took power in 1996 during the country’s civil war. Karzai’s brainchild, the High Peace Council was intended to open a dialogue with insurgents who have been trying to bring down his government since the US-led invasion overthrew their regime but has seen little success. The 68-member council, hand-picked by the president, was inaugurated in October 2010.

Delivering his acceptance speech, Rabbani said he was “confident” that peace was possible, according to a statement from the palace. “I hope we are able to take major steps in bringing peace and fulfil our duties with tireless effort and help from God,” he was quoted as saying.


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