Chaotic Scene Marks Burial of Afghan Ex-President and Peacemaker

Posted September 23rd, 2011 at 9:15 am (UTC-5)
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Thousands of mourners helped bury Afghanistan's former president and head peace broker with the Taliban, Burhanuddin Rabbani, days after he was killed by a suicide bomber at his home.

Friday's funeral in Kabul drew large crowds of people who pushed and shoved around Mr. Rabbani's coffin, which was draped in the Afghan flag.

During the chaotic scene, angry chants filled the hilltop cemetery against the United States, Pakistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Rabbani supporters also threw stones at Afghan security forces, and at one point, police fired guns in the air to disperse some people.

President Karzai, who did not attend the funeral, said in a speech earlier Friday that it is Afghanistan's responsibility to act against those who are “enemies of peace.”

Mr. Rabbani was killed Tuesday by a suicide bomber claiming to carry a reconciliation message from the Taliban. The attacker hid explosives in his turban.

The former president was the head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council and was spearheading peace efforts with the Taliban.

President Karzai said Thursday the suicide bomber had presented officials with an audio message of a purported Taliban peace offer. He said 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, had given him the audio message. Officials say Mr. Rabbani rushed home from a trip to Iran to meet the alleged Taliban emissary.

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.