20 September 2011 11:43 ET
The chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, has been killed with several others in a bomb attack in Kabul, officials say.
Mr Rabbani was killed at his home by a suicide attacker who officials suspect had concealed a bomb in his turban.
He was meeting members of the Taliban at the time. The council leads Afghan efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.
Mr Rabbani is a former president of Afghanistan and also led the main political opposition in the country.
A senior advisor to the peace council, Masoom Stanakzai, is also thought to have been seriously wounded in the attack.
On hearing the news, Afghan President Hamid Karzai cancelled his trip to the US mid-flight. He is now returning to Kabul.
Mr Rabbani’s residence is in a well-to-do district of Kabul, on the edge of a high security area close to the US embassy and the district where the Taliban launched a 20-hour attack last week, leaving 25 dead.
The attack is likely to fuel concerns over security in the capital. Security forces have closed off a number of streets in the district and the police are out in force, reports say.
Mr Rabbani and his security advisor, were meeting two members of the Taliban at the time of the blast.
“Two Taliban went with Mr Stanakzai. No-one was checked. Shortly after that we heard an explosion. Everyone started shouting: ‘They killed Ustaad Ustaad [a term of respect]’,” a member of Mr Rabbani’s household told the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.
Counter terror officials have said that they assume the Taliban visitors were the suicide attackers but add that it is still too early to draw any definite conclusions.
When the High Peace Council was set up, Mr Karzai described it as the greatest hope for the Afghan people and called on the Taliban to seize the opportunity and help bring peace.
But many members of the council are former warlords who spent years fighting the Taliban and their inclusion led to doubts as to whether it could succeed in its mission.
Mr Rabbani recently spoke at a religious conference in Iran and called on Muslim scholars to speak out against suicide attacks.
- Senior figure in the mujahideen who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s
- President of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 and then again in 2001
- Senior member of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance from 1996 to 2001
- Made leader of Peace Council constituted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai tasked with negotiating with the Taliban
He was ousted as president by the Taliban in 1996. After that he became the nominal head of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, made of mostly non-Pashtun ethnic groups.
When they swept back into Kabul, backed by US forces, and toppled the Taliban in 2001, he was still recognised by the UN as the official president of Afghanistan.
But he was a controversial figure.
In the 1970s it was Mr Rabbani who founded the parties that ended up becoming the Afghan mujahideen and correspondents say that many blame him and his friends for the death and destruction of the civil war days.
The BBC’s David Loyn in Kabul says that the Taliban have wanted Mr Rabbani dead for some time. Indeed, our correspondent says, many were surprised when Mr Rabbani was put in charge of peace talks.
However, our correspondent adds, his death will not necessarily prevent peace talks from continuing.
The killing is just the latest in a series of assassinations of senior politicians and security commanders across the country.
In July, President Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was killed at his home in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, by his own head of security. Two months earlier, General Daud Daud, the top police commander in northern Afghanistan was killed in a suicide bomb attack.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for most of these killings.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
23981534495 9122159 82
his path of destiny = 82 = Too early to draw any definite conclusions.
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