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Hundreds mourn Rabbani as Taliban claim responsibility for killing

media Mourners pay tribute to Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul Reuters/Ahmad Masood

Hundreds of Afghans on Wednesday protested at the assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed while negotiating with Taliban emissaries in his role of head of the peace council set up by President Hamid Karzai.

Under heightened security several hundred mourners marched to Rabbani’s home in Kabul, carrying pictures of the dead Tajik leader and wearing black headbands.

Wikimedia Commons/Pajhwok Afghan News

Rabbani, born in 1940 in the northern province of Badakhshan, was a Tajik, a member of Afghanistan’s second-largest ethnic group.

  • From 1992-1996, after the defeat of the Soviet-backed government, Rabbani was president of Afghanistan as rival mujaheddin factions fought for domination with all sides committing many atrocities.
  • From 1996-2001 he was the nominal head of the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban before their fall in 2001.
  • In 2001 he served a second term as president.
  • In 2006 he became head of the United National Front, a coalition of former mujaheddin and former communist officials opposed to President Hamid Karzai.
  • In 2010 Karzai appointed him head of the High Peace Council.

Several government officials arrived to pay their respects.

President Hamid Karzai rushed home from the United Nations and chaired an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss giving Rabbani an official funeral, which is expected to take place on Thursday or Friday;

The murder “will not deter us from continuing down the path we have started”, he said.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who has returned to his country because of the massive floods there, condemned the assassination, as did Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Iran on Wednesday dubbed the killing a “terrorist act” perpetrated against “a friend of Iran” and claimed that it the failure of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan to establish peace.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility, telling the Reuters news agency that the killer had gone to Rabbani's home for talks.

"As soon as Rabbani came three steps forward to hug Mohammad Masoom, he triggered his explosive-filled jacket killing Rabbani, [another] Taliban militant Wahid Yar and four security guards present at the house," he said.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The Kabul police chief's office, in a statement, said the explosives had been hidden in the suicide bomber's turban, when he and an accomplice arrived at his villa, supposedly bringing “special messages” from the Taliban.

The High Peace Council paid tribute to its late chairman, describing him as a “great leader of jihad”.

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