Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, together with four other people, has been killed in a suicide bomb attack in the country’s capital, Kabul.
Rabbani was killed at his home, which is located in Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic enclave known as “the green zone”.
He was reportedly meeting two members of the Taliban at the time of the blast.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a high-level team had won Rabbani’s trust and feigned interest in talks but instead had been planning to kill him, according to Reuters.
Police in Kabul say Rabbani was killed by a suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban.
The turban bomber entered Rabbani's house in the capital Kabul on Tuesday evening and detonated a device on his person once inside, Mohammad Zahir, the chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police, told the Associated Press. According to the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, Rabbani and Masoom Stanekzai, a senior adviser, were inside the house when two suicide bombers entered on the pretext of wishing to conduct reconciliation talks and detonated the charge.
The National Directorate of Security in Kabul said one of the attackers survived the blast and was captured. Doctors are now fighting to save him in the hope that he will be able to give up information crucial to the investigation of the bombing.
Hamid Karzai has called the killing of the former Afghan president 'martyrdom,' and said he sacrificed his life for peace. President Karzai is cutting short a US trip because of Rabbani’s assassination.He will return from New York tomorrow morning after his meeting with President Obama, according to his spokesman.
Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, was the president of the Afghan government that preceded the Taliban rule. He was forced to leave Kabul in September 1996 after the Taliban takeover, but continued to be recognized by the international community as the legitimate ruler of the country until 2001. He officially resigned in December 2001.
He was also the head of Afghanistan National Front, the largest political opposition to Hamid Karzai’s government.
Rabbani was chosen by Karzai to head the High Peace Council last October. His plan included offering amnesties and jobs to Taliban foot soldiers and asylum in third countries to leaders.
His killing dampens hopes of starting peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents. It is also feared that it will hamper efforts to keep regional and ethnic rivalries in check.
Burhanuddin Rabbani gave his last interview to RT's sister channel Rusiya al-Yaum.
“Recently he [Rabbani] was playing a very important moderating role in terms of bringing the peace process, giving it an Afghan face, rather than a regional face, and that was very much in support of Mr Karzai’s efforts,” says Daoud Sultanzoy, political analyst and former Afghan MP. “This would be seen as a major blow to Mr Karzai and his peace efforts because the radical factions of the Northern Alliance [an Afghan anti-Taliban organization] would have a louder voice now against peace talks.”
There are conflicting reports concerning President Hamid Karzai’s advisor Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai. Some reports stated he was also killed in the attack, while others said he was only wounded.
Stanekzai's relative, who answered his phone but declined to give his name, confirmed that Stanekzai was in hospital, but his wounds did not appear to be life-threatening.
The attack comes a week after a 19-hour siege of the area which left 16 people dead in gunfire and suicide blasts targeting the US embassy and the neighboring headquarters of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.
It was the third major attack on the Afghan capital since June. All three of those attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied insurgent faction, based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.