Suicide Bomber Kills Afghan Former President and Peace Council Chief

Posted September 20th, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A suicide bomber has killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was spearheading peace efforts with the Taliban.

The blast occurred late Tuesday at Mr. Rabbani's home in Kabul.

Police say the bomber arrived at the former president's house to talk about the peace process. He then approached Mr. Rabbani and detonated explosives hidden in his turban while greeting the leader.

At least five people, including Mr. Rabbani, were killed. One of President Hamid Karzai's advisor's who was present at the meeting, Masoom Stanekzai, was wounded.

Mr. Rabbani led Afghanistan's High Peace Council, which was set up by President Karzai to find a political end to the war.

Mr. Karzai strongly condemned Tuesday's attack. The Afghan leader met with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York on Tuesday. President Obama said Mr. Rabbani's death would strengthen U.S. resolve to work with the Afghans for peace.

Mr. Karzai's spokesman says the president will cut his U.S. trip short because of Mr. Rabbani's death. President Karzai was set to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

In response to Tuesday's assassination, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen vowed that “those who offer only death and destruction” to the Afghan people will not prevail.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Mr. Rabbani played a vital role in Afghanistan's peace process and that he was “absolutely appalled” by his murder.

Pakistani leaders also expressed “extreme anger and shock” at Mr. Rabbani's killing. In a statement, they accused “enemies of peace in Afghanistan” for the former president's death.

Mr. Rabbani lived in the capital's heavily fortified diplomatic zone, near government buildings and the U.S. Embassy.

A statement from the embassy said all personnel had received instruction to take cover. Reports of the embassy's orders surfaced around the same time as the attack.

Last week, Taliban insurgents launched a nearly 20-hour raid in the area with rocket-propelled grenades, gunfire and explosions. It is said to be the longest sustained attack in the capital since the start of the war in 2001.

The militants targeted the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and police elsewhere in the city. Their coordinated assault killed 14 people and wounded more than two dozen others. Afghan security forces, back by NATO helicopters, were able to put an end to the violence, killing all nine attackers.