Karzai leads mourning for murdered peace-maker


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Thousands of mourners thronged the streets of Kabul yesterday to pay their last respects to former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani after his assassination earlier this week.

Professor Rabbani, who headed the High Peace Council seeking to reconcile with the Taliban, was killed at his home by a suicide bomber who claimed to have been sent by the Taliban leadership with a message of peace. The assassin detonated explosives concealed in his turban as he hugged Mr Rabbani.

Amid tight security, Afghan lawmakers, foreign dignitaries and Mujahedeen commanders attended a funeral service at the Presidential Palace, where Mr Rabbani's body had lain in state.

President Hamid Karzai and Mr Rabbani's son, Salahuddin Rabbani, both addressed the congregation. Mr Karzai insisted that Mr Rabbani's efforts to bring peace to the country would be continued. He also bestowed upon Mr Rabbani the title of Martyr of Afghanistan.

"We are mourning today a man who was a great jihadi leader and promoter of knowledge. He laid down his life for the cause," Mr Karzai said.

Mohammed Ismail Qasemyar, a Member of Parliament and a peace council advisor, was one of those who went from the palace to Mr Rabbani's hilltop burial site. He said feelings were running high on the hills and many present were filled with anger, putting some of the blame for the attack on the Pakistani intelligence services – just like US officials following the attack on the US embassy in Kabul last week.

Describing the scene, Mr Qasemyar said some mourners shouted: "Death to the ISI. Death to Pakistan. Death to those who fixed the meeting." He added: "I saw Kabul university students were throwing stones at the armed vehicles of politicians and they broke windows of their cars." Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security yesterday blamed Taliban's Quetta Shura for killing Rabbani. The Taliban, though, have been coy about admitting responsibility.

Speaking to The Independent, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said: "We do not claim responsibility for the killing of Rabbani. Our leadership council did not say anything on Rabbani's killing up to now."

He said that Reuters reports saying the Taliban had claimed responsibility were untrue. Mr Mujahid said he had been misquoted by the news agency.

Mr Rabbani had rushed back from a trip to Iran and the United Arab Emirates to meet with the suicide bomber who had won the trust of other peace council members – and President Karzai – by playing them a CD supposedly containing a peace message from the Taliban leadership.

Though keen to be seen as waiting a respectful amount of time before announcing a successor to Mr Rabbani as peace council chief, those familiar with behind-the-scenes negotiations say candidates are jockeying hard for the position. They are said to include Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, also a former Afghan president, and Pir Sayed Gailani, an MP.