Afghan peace council head killed in Kabul

Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:39pm GMT
 

By Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide bomber on Tuesday killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghan president and head of the government's peace council, a dramatic show of insurgent reach and a heavy blow to hopes of reaching a political end to the war.

The killing was a strong statement of Taliban opposition to peace talks, and as the latest in a string of high-profile assassinations will increase the apprehension of ordinary Afghans about their future as the insurgency gathers pace.

Since Rabbani was a prominent Tajik, his killing is also likely to exacerbate ethnic divides, which in themselves could do more to halt any peace process than the death of a man who while influential, had so far produced limited evidence of concrete steps towards negotiations.

"A Taliban member who went to Rabbani's house for peace talks detonated a bomb hidden in his turban," a statement by the Kabul police chief's office said.

A police source said Masoom Stanekzai, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, was badly injured in the attack.

It was the highest profile assassination in Afghanistan since the younger half-brother of President Hamid Karzai, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was killed at his home in July by a highly trusted family security guard.

It also came just a week after a deadly 20-hour siege by militants in the fortified capital - an attack which underlined how hard it will be for the United States to hand over security to Afghan forces by 2014 so it can bring home its troops.

"The killing of Rabbani is a serious blow against President Karzai and the government's peace and reconciliations efforts. It also underscores the inability of the government to protect even the most prominent Afghan politicians," one diplomat said.   Continued...

Burhanuddin Rabban, Afghanistan's head of peace council, is seen in Kabul April 16, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Massoud/Pool
 
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