Former Afghan president killed in suicide bombing
Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghanistan president and head of the country's High Peace Council, was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber at his home close to the American embassy in Kabul last night, dealing a serious blow to the prospects of reconciliation in the country.
Four aides were also killed in the attack, which one council member said was carried out by a trusted Taliban figure, who detonated explosives hidden in his turban as he embraced Prof Rabbani.
A senior adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, the chief executive of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme, was seriously injured in the attack, although his condition is not critical.
Fazel Karim Aymaq, a member of the High Peace Council, said two "very trusted" figures had come to Prof Rabbani's home in Kabul's up-market Wazir Akhbar Khan neighbourhood with "special messages" from the Taliban.
"One of them put his head on the shoulder of Rabbani and detonated the explosives hidden in his turban," he said.
Another council member, Habibullah Fawzi, said the bomber came from Quetta to Kabul with a message of peace from the Taliban.
"He met Rabbani and Stanekzai. Rabbani was expecting him. He was supposed to be a key member of the Taliban. They discussed peace and after the meeting was over Rabbani stood up to wish this man goodbye. Rabbani and the Talib hugged and that was when he blew himself up."
Michael Semple, a Taliban expert, described the attack as "one of the biggest blows the peace process in Afghanistan has faced".
"It raises the question of whether there is the space for Afghans to talk and whether they can avoid a civil war, but it is also important to understand who did this because it is clearly people who feel threatened by a peace process," he said.
US President Barack Obama and William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, condemned the attack.
Mr Karzai, who announced he was cutting short his trip to the United Nations General Assembly, described Prof Rabbani, who was president from 1992 to 1996, as a martyr and said his killing "will not deter us". (© Daily Telegraph, London)