KABUL: Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul on Tuesday to denounce the assassination of government peace mediator and ethnic Tajik powerbroker Burhanuddin Rabbani.
It was the first protest of its kind since Rabbani, a key leader of the 1980s anti-Soviet resistance and President Hamid Karzai’s top envoy in peace efforts with the Taliban, was killed by a suicide bomber last week.
Angry, mainly Tajik supporters shouted “Death to Pakistan,” “Death to terrorists” and “Death to the Taliban” — blaming the Pashtun-dominated militia for the killing, the photographer said.
There have been fears that the assassination of Rabbani, president during Afghanistan’s 1992-96 civil war, could stoke renewed conflict in a nation where historical enmity runs deep between Pashtuns and rival ethnic groups.
Organisers said authorities later informed them there was a suicide bomber on the loose, posing a security threat, so the protest was cut short. But Afghan intelligence officials reached by the reporter could not immediately confirm this.
Tuesday’s protest was organised by Karzai’s former spy chief, Amrullah Saleh, another Tajik and key figure in the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban in the 1990s and of which Rabbani was political leader.
Demonstrators carried pictures of other key Northern Alliance figures slain by the Taliban in recent months, including General Mohammad Daud Daud, the police commander of northern Afghanistan who was killed in June.
Sayed Azhar, an activist for Saleh’s political movement, said the protest was cut short but that organisers would still deliver a request to the UN mission in Kabul calling for an investigation into Rabbani’s death.
“We cancelled the march due to security threats. We were told by security officials that there was a security threat,” he said. “We didn’t want to put the lives of people in danger.” Many Northern Alliance leaders, mostly Tajiks, are now in government but increasing numbers are increasingly opposed to Karzai’s efforts to talk peace with the Taliban following Rabbani’s death.
There are around 140,000 US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan fighting a bloody, Taliban-led insurgency. Rabbani was buried on Friday in chaotic scenes, with thousands of people swarming around his coffin as it was interred on a hill overlooking Kabul.