Former Afghanistan President Rabbani killed in Kabul blast

Former Afghanistan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was appointed last year to head a commission trying to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, was killed inside his Kabul home on Tuesday in a suicide bombing, Afghan officials said. He was about 70 years old. The assassination marked another dark chapter in a war that the U.S.-led coalition is preparing to exit, with international troops set to leave Afghanistan by 2014. For the past year, Rabbani had been in charge of a government peace council that tried to facilitate contacts with Taliban insurgents. But the council failed to make headway as warring sides and disparate groups maneuvered for an edge in the long-running conflict. Rabbani was assassinated Tuesday by a suicide bomber concealing explosives in his turban, a tactic that has been used with lethal effect against other Afghan officials.
He was president from 1992-1996, heading the Afghan government that preceded the Taliban rule. After he was driven from Kabul in 1996, he became the nominal head of the Northern Alliance, mostly minority Tajiks and Uzbeks, who swept to power in Kabul after the Taliban’s fall. Rabbani is an ethnic Tajik. The soft-spoken Rabbani used to spend most of his time translating poetry before assuming political power in Afghanistan, with its trappings of heavily armed bodyguards and armored vehicles with tinted windows. In 1996, as leader of a country contested by nearly a dozen factions, he vowed to resist the Taliban even as the Islamic fundamentalist force closed in on the capital. “We are ready to force the Taliban out of rocket range,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly before he was ousted. “That might make them ready to negotiate a peace agreement with us.” In the 1996 interview, Rabbani also said the United States should help put together a government representing Afghanistan’s various factions: “They are a powerful country and they must do their duty.” Rabbani’s up-and-down political career was entwined with the wars that have torn Afghanistan for decades, well before the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban in 2001 because of their support for Osama bin Laden.