A Taliban suicide bomber with concealed explosives in a turban on Tuesday assassinated former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading government peace efforts, police said.
The bomber struck during a meeting at the Kabul home of Rabbani, who was last year appointed chief of the Afghan High Peace Council that President Hamid Karzai tasked with negotiating with the Taliban.
His death is the most high-profile political assassination since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power and comes just two months after Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was also killed.
The attackers arrived at Rabbani’s house with Mohammad Massom Stanikzai, Rabbani’s deputy, for a meeting before the turban bomber detonated his explosives, according to one source amid conflicting reports of the incident.
A member of the High Peace Council, Fazel Karim Aymaq, said the men had come with “special messages” from the Taliban and were “very trusted.”
Kabul criminal investigations chief Mohammad Zaher said two men “negotiating with Rabbani on behalf of the Taliban” arrived at his house, one with explosives hidden in his turban.
“He approached Rabbani and detonated his explosives. Rabbani was martyred and four others including Massom Stanikzai (his deputy) were injured.”
The bomber struck close to the US embassy, making it the the second attack within a week in Kabul’s supposedly secure diplomatic zone.
The killing prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to cut short his visit to the United States, his spokesperson
said, adding he was still expected to meet US President Barack Obama as scheduled before leaving.
Two of the former president’s political allies, who did not want to be named and speaking before police confirmed Rabbani’s death, confirmed that he had been killed.
“Yes, he is dead,” said one of the two sources by telephone.
The Taliban were not immediately reachable for comment, but the insurgency led by its militia has hit Kabul increasingly hard in recent months.