High-profile assassination: Turban bomber kills Afghanistan’s top peacemaker

Published: September 20, 2011
Afghanistan's former president Burhanuddin Rabbani smiles during an interview with Reuters in Kabul in this November 1, 2004 file photograph. Rabbani, the chairman of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, was killed in an attack on his home in Kabul on September 20, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Afghanistan's former president Burhanuddin Rabbani smiles during an interview with Reuters in Kabul in this November 1, 2004 file photograph. Rabbani, the chairman of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, was killed in an attack on his home in Kabul on September 20, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS


Former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated in his home in Kabul on Tuesday by a Taliban insurgent who set off explosives concealed in his turban, wounding a key presidential adviser and dealing a body blow to Kabul’s reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Rabbani was heading the 68-member High Peace Council set up in October 2010 to build contacts with the Taliban.

His death is the most high-profile murder 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.

It also comes just a week after a 20-hour siege by the Taliban at US embassy and Nato headquarters in the supposedly secure zone of Kabul.

The attackers arrived at Rabbani’s house in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood with Mohammad Massom Stanikzai, a top adviser of President Hamid Karzai and Rabbani’s deputy, for a meeting before the turban bomber detonated his explosives.

A member of the High Peace Council, Fazel Karim Aymaq, told The Express Tribune the men had come with “special messages” from the Taliban and were “very trusted.”

(Read: Call to arms in Afghanistan – Hekmatyar rejects Afghan peace talks offer)

“They told the peace council that they would deliver a message from the senior Taliban leadership,” he said. Another Afghan official Wahedyar had also informed Rabbani that a group of Taliban members wanted to meet him to discuss the reconciliation process. He said the security officials did not check the Taliban members as they were considered special guests.

Kabul criminal investigations chief Mohammad Zaher confirmed the account and said that “Rabbani was martyred and four others including Massom Stanikzai were injured.” However, the Afghan interior ministry spokesperson said Stanikzai’s wounds were not life-threatening.

The bomber was killed while the injured accomplice was arrested, a source close to Rabbani who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. “Yes, we carried out the attack under a well-organised plan,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune in an email.

“Two of our men went to meet Rabbani at his residence. One of them approached Rabbani to hug him and exploded his bomb,” Mujahid said. “Rabbani was killed at the scene,” he said, adding that four of his bodyguards were also slain in the attack.

Arsala Rahmani, a peace council member, confirmed that Stanikzai and another official Wahedyar were present at Rabbani’s residence when the bomber struck.

Rabbani was in Dubai when he was asked by his colleagues to return to Kabul to meet some Taliban who were ready to reconcile. Rahmani, a former deputy education minister, had accompanied Rabbani to Tehran to attend a conference on ‘Muslim awakening’ last week. “We were eight people from Afghanistan, including Professor Rabbani, myself and Stanekzai,” Rahmani told The Express Tribune by phone from Kabul.

“All of us returned to Kabul, except for Professor Rabbani who went to Dubai,” Rahmani said without elaborating. Rabbani had returned from Dubai on Tuesday and despite his busy schedule he agreed to receive the Taliban members shortly after his return.

Afghan parliamentarian Huma Soltani said that Rabbani’s assassination shows that the Taliban don’t trust the peace council. “They wanted to send across a message that the Afghan high peace council cannot restore peace to Afghanistan,” Soltani told The Express Tribune. She renewed her offer for negotiating peace with the Taliban.

(Read: Afghan endgame – Peace Council still looking for Taliban ‘address’)

Rahmani called Rabbani, a Tajik by ethnicity, “an elderly religious scholar, a former jihadi commander, a political leader and a unifying figure in the ethnically diverse country”. He dubbed Rabbani’s death a huge loss and a serious setback to ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan. According to him, Rabbani set up peace councils at provincial levels and was poised to approach the Taliban’s senior cadre.

Rahmani reckons that Rabbani’s death would not derail the peace process. “It’s undoubtedly a huge loss, but I don’t think this will halt our march towards peace and reconciliation,” he added.

However, a senior diplomat in Kabul called Rabbani’s death a blow to the peace efforts. “The killing of Rabbani is a serious blow against President Karzai and the government’s peace and reconciliations efforts,” the diplomat told Reuters.

But a former Taliban foreign minister and now a member of the peace council did not agree either with Rahman or the diplomat. “How can Rabbani’s death affect peace talks which haven’t kicked off at all?” asked Maulvi Abdul Wakil Mutwakkal in remarks to The Express Tribune.

(With additional input from news wires)

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Sep 20, 2011 - 7:51PM

    Pakistan must and should not be pulled into this! bad days for Afghanistan.


  • Straight Fire
    Sep 20, 2011 - 7:58PM

    2012 belongs to Taliban with a world free from America …


  • Doctor
    Sep 20, 2011 - 8:20PM

    We hope that Afghanistan emerges from this dark time as a peaceful nation free of the Taliban scum.


  • Avinash
    Sep 20, 2011 - 8:20PM

    Ohhh God.. what happened to these people. It should stop.


  • John B
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:05PM

    Taliban in peace talks is a mirage. PAK sees afghan Taliban / Haqqani network are good but PAK Taliban are bad. Ideology of Taliban is the same.

    Taliban goal: Stall the peace process as much as possible and once ISF are out of combat operations, create chaos in Afghanistan and take over Waziristan and expand the empire slowly into east.

    As much as one would like to think that this is a crazy idea, the reality inside Pakistan, including the support of locals towards Taliban in general makes one to pause and brood.


  • Sep 20, 2011 - 9:41PM

    Muslims killing other Muslims – what’s new?


  • A Suhail
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:43PM

    To kill an unarmed man and deceive him by convincing to negotiate with them. All the hallmarks of zaliman Taliban. Worst time for afghanistan and Pakistan in horizon. My sincere regrets to the Afghan people. We, in Pakistan, must get ready for more assassinations of our elite. These butchers are not even sparing little kids and use Islam to justify their acts.


  • Explorer
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:47PM

    Reminds us of Ahmed Shah Masood’s assassination on the eve of 9/11. These ‘Endgame’ killings are meant to eliminate key players in the game before the US exit.


  • observer
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:48PM

    @S Ali Raza
    Pakistan must and should not be pulled into this! bad days for Afghanistan.
    I am willing to bet my last Rupee that Pakistan and Haqqanis are behind this. Rabbani was trying to broker a deal between Taliban factions (minus the Haqqanis) and the Kabul regime. Had he succeeded this would have been a body blow to Haqqanis and Pakistan’s ambitions of strategic depth.
    Earlier too, Rabbani was deposed from Presidency by Pakistan sponsored Taliban.Recommend

  • First drink, don't think
    Sep 20, 2011 - 9:58PM

    Will be eventually blamed on the Haqqanis!


  • Mirza
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:04PM

    The news says: “men were “very trusted”
    It only shows two things, that these terrorist Taliban cannot and should not ever be trusted. In addition, Rabbani an ethnic Tajik leader and very religious man is still not a good enough Muslim for Taliban! Every Muslim who is not a Talib is not a true Muslim and liable for murder. The ideology of terror and blood called Taliban. Of course there would be no outrage or dharna against this brutal & cowardly murder of an old Muslim leader.


  • Sad but true
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:31PM

    @Straight Fire: Agree with you. With all the killings in Pakistan by the Talibans, their work will be finished by 2012.


  • adam
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:45PM

    don’t trust those who never trusted others more than they trust their weapons


  • adam
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:49PM

    so they know what you check and what you don’t check, but you don;t know they are so close, watch it before they get you. They are so smart and we are so simple.


  • antanu
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:12PM

    anybody involved in peace process would be killed by war mongers. Still dont believe in conspiracy theory, hatched to keep the region in turmoil? US does not want peace in the region. They are blaming pakistan for all the evils….but what are they doing with more than 100000 NATO and substantial afghan security forces? How and from where taliban are getting arms and money? OK if agrreing that pakistan is supplying the material support…why US firces are not interrupting it? Now the countries of region must wake up befire its too late.And mind you, US would not even spare India once they decided.


  • Fareeda malik
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:35PM

    Afghanistan is a geograpgical curse for Pakistan. India ia lucky to get rid of Afghan border. Affghans never did anything in history except killing and destroying.They did not allow Mughals to sit peacefully.
    Its a tragic paradox that they are known for “honour” but they never provided respectable living to their children and women.They hate education.They are never rational.

    At the same time they are simple and naive also. Cunning persons like Hameed Gul, Aslam Baig and Qazi Husain Ahmad who are enjoying the highest possible living standard,have been provoking and encouraging them to fight and fight.

    Pakistan will never be peaceful because of Afghanistan


  • Feroz
    Sep 20, 2011 - 11:48PM

    The Americans will move every stone to find out who done it. No not the foot soldiers but the Masterminds. When they do find out they will let every one know. Good Luck to the murderers, no one will want to be in their shoes. Pakistan must ensure that the murderers and their masterminds do not find shelter on its territory.


  • Ikramuddin Akbar
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:11AM

    Islam and true Muslims have only and will have only one enemy, the “Munafiqeen”( DEKHA JO TEER KHA KEY KAMEEN GAH KI TARAF APNEY HI DOSTON SEY MUL;AQAAT HOGAYI) History of Islam, has it that no power,no worst enemies (Other Ahl e Kitab, and Kuffar) ever succeeded to tarnish the image of Islam, and bring great harm to it but the traitors,in fact named as Munafiqeen ) who in the garb of Muslims,having rancor, always tried and have been trying to harm this peaceful religion and it’s norms.So Islam has enemies within itself.We all need to recognize them.


  • Abdullah
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:43AM

    This is a disgrace to us as Muslims, how long we have to kill one another under this name or that name. If Talibans are really Muslims they should not kill another Muslim brother or sister. These kind of actions will bring more wrath from Allah (SWT). We should fear Allah and repent from our sins.


  • faraz
    Sep 21, 2011 - 1:00AM

    Good taliban and Northern Alliance massacred each other in the 90s. Whats new!


  • Ikramuddin Akbar
    Sep 21, 2011 - 8:00AM

    There are some other Islamic countries also in Asia like Malaysia and Indonesia, and have had western influences too, but i wonder why there isn’t any thing like Taliban or other Jehadi machines working there. They are Muslims like us, they are people like us and have families like ours. Why USA and BRITAIN failed to compel them to act on their own created policies. why they are not inspired by the Only “Islamic People’s Republic” of the subcontinent the answer lies within the word “self respect”. People there are not easily fooled by the political swindlers .Their government spend a lot on educations They don’t worship provinces and “rich cultural heritage”, rather they feel proud being a nation.They worship their countries They tolerate every religions They love their countries not ” Humara,Tumhara Elaqa”, I hope we need a leader like Mahathir Mohammad.They have foreign policies based on the philosophy ” you get treated the way you teach nations to treat you”.Recommend

  • Sad but true
    Sep 21, 2011 - 11:11AM

    @Fareeda malik: There are millions of Afghans all over the world. Check this and compare: how many Afghans living overseas are caught in terrorism. Now check the same of Pakistanis. Hope you find the answer and report here.


  • kazi jawed akhter
    Sep 21, 2011 - 11:46AM

    May the departed souls rest in peace.


  • deepak
    Sep 27, 2011 - 7:34PM

    I don’t agree totally with ‘sad but true’.Not only the Pakistanis but all followers of Islam who really follow the Quran and Muhammad are duty bound to do such deeds. The duty of every Muslim is to have faith in Allah and His Prophet and do JIHAD till the Day of Qayamat.Thanks …Go ahead.Either subjugate every person who has a different faith (does not believe in Allah and His Prophet) ,force himm to pay JEZZIA or cleans the earth of such people to establish Dar-ul-Islam.Recommend

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