Chief Afghan Peace Negotiator Slain

Former president of Afghanistan, and the nation's top negotiator in talks with the Taliban, was assassinated at talks held in his home.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Burhanuddin Rabbani
Pajhwok Afghan News

A former president of Afghanistan tasked with negotiating a political end to hostilities with the Taliban, was assassinated Monday.

Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, an influential Muhahadeen leader during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, served as president in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal.

Afghan officials told Al Jazeera that Rabbani was meeting with a Taliban delegation at his home when the attack happened.

"I just spoke to one of the High Peace Council members near Rabbani's home. He said at the meeting with a Taliban delegation, one of the members approached him to try to shake hands and detonated his explosives that he had hidden in his turban," an Al Jazeera reporter on the scene said.

The occurred while current President Hamid Karzai’s was in New York where he was expected to confer about President Obama about the war during the United Nations General Assembly.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai told the New York Times he would cut short his trip to return home.

"The president was made aware of this incident and he is cancelling the rest of his trip to the US and is coming back to the country," spokesman Hamid Elmi said.

Ministers of the Afghan government reportedly raced to the scene and streets were closed off near Mr. Rabbani’s home, which is said to have been heavily guarded.

“This is not good for the peace process,” Shukria Barakzai, a member of the parliamentary defense committee, and one of the few female lawmakers in post-Taliban Afghanistan, said as she spoke in tears to local reporters.

Reuters quoted Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a police spokesman in Kabul, as saying the killer was probably a suicide bomber and that at least three others had been killed in the attack.

The attack comes just one week after Taliban insurgents orchestrated a terror attack in the city laying siege to several neighborhoods and firing on western embassies until, 19 hours later, Afghan and NATO forces killed the last of the terrorists.

Taliban attacks have cast doubt on the readiness of President Karzai’s forces to assume security as foreign military forces gradually withdraw until a final exit from the country 2014.