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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Afghans mourn peace broker Rabbani

 Afghans mourn peace broker Rabbani

Hundreds of Afghans marched in Kabul Wednesday 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 home Tuesday by a bomber thought to be a trusted emissary bringing a special message from the Taliban.
Although there has been no official word from the Taliban, his killing deals a heavy blow to already remote hopes of an imminent end to 10 years of fighting between Islamist insurgents and the Afghan government backed by Western troops.
President Hamid Karzai rushed back to Kabul from a visit to the United States and chaired an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss plans to give Rabbani an official funeral in the coming days, officials said.
"It will be tomorrow (Thursday) or likely the day after," Sataar Murad, a spokesman for Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami party, told AFP. "He will be buried in Kabul but an exact location has not been chosen yet."
Rabbani's killing was the most high-profile political assassination since the 2001 US-led invasion dislodged the Taliban.
That it happened in Kabul's supposedly secure diplomatic zone, close to last week's 19-hour siege which targeted the US embassy, again highlights a sharp rise in spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.
Under heightened security on Wednesday, several hundred mourners marched to Rabbani's home carrying giant pictures of him and wearing black headbands.
Karzai, whose relations with the West have soured drastically since his fraud-tained re-election in 2009, insisted Rabbani's assassination "will not deter us from continuing down the path we have started".
US President Barack Obama, who has said American combat troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, said Afghans must be allowed to live "in freedom, safety, security and prosperity".
NATO's Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who heads up the alliance leading the foreign military effort to reverse Taliban momentum, said those behind the killing "will not prevail".
Members of Rabbani's entourage said the attacker and an accomplice were invited to his high-security villa as emissaries bringing "special messages" from the Taliban.
One source close to Rabbani, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the pair were not searched as a sign of trust.
The bomber detonated his explosives as he hugged Rabbani in greeting.
Although there were conflicting reports of who brought in the bombers, the source said they arrived with Mohammad Massom Stanikzai, one of Rabbani's deputies, who was one of four people wounded in the attack.
He added that Rabbani had just returned from Iran especially to meet the two, believing they were important Taliban figures.
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 High Peace Council put out a message Wednesday 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.

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