Karzai: Rabbani Killer Used Fake Peace Message for Access

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 4:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the suicide bomber who killed former president Burhanuddin Rabbani at his Kabul home Tuesday used a fake peace message from the Taliban to gain access to him.

Mr. Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, was killed when the attacker detonated explosives hidden in his turban. He was leading efforts to find a political solution to the 10-year Afghan war

President Karzai said Thursday the suicide bomber had presented officials with an audio message of a purported Taliban peace offer and that he had listened to it before leaving for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Karzai cut short his U.S. trip after Mr. Rabbani's assassination.

President Karzai said his advisor, Masoom Stanekzai, who was wounded in the attack, gave him the audio message. Officials say Mr. Rabbani rushed home from a trip to Iran to meet the purported Taliban emissary.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Kabul Thursday to offer his condolences and attend Mr. Rabbani's funeral on Friday.

A spokesman for the Afghan intelligence agency said Thursday officials believe the Taliban's leadership body — the Quetta Shura — was behind the assassination.

There is conflicting information regarding the claim of responsibility. A Taliban spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the group carried out the attack, but another Taliban spokesman rejected that claim and said the insurgent group would not comment on Mr. Rabbani's assassination.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, on Thursday called the former Afghan president's killing a brutal murder. Crocker also pledged U.S. and international support for Afghan peace efforts.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told lawmakers that the Taliban's recent high-profile attacks are a sign of “weakness” and reflect a shift in momentum “in our favor” in the Afghan war.

Also Thursday, the Working Group on Reintegration in Afghanistan, set up under the International Contact Group, met in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The members held one minute's silence to commemorate Mr. Rabbani's life and said the important work of the peace council in helping bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan will continue. The group said that desperate acts of terrorism will not stop the Afghan people from working towards a peaceful future.

In other news, NATO said a joint Afghan and coalition security force killed Taliban commander Qari Tahir in an air strike in central Wardak province.

NATO said Tahir was the Taliban's top leader in Tangi Valley and the target of the August 5 operation, during which the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down. The crash killed 30 U.S. troops, seven Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter.

The insurgents responsible for shooting down the helicopter were killed days later in an airstrike.

NATO said Tahir was responsible for coordinating attacks against Afghan forces as well as kidnappings for ransom and hijacking of convoy vehicles. The statement said he was also known to use roadside bombs and rockets to intimidate the local population.