Kabul – Thousands of mourners on Friday attended the state funeral for former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated this week in Kabul.
At a prayer at the presidential palace, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said: “Today we are witnessing the biggest and saddest event of this important political time in the history of the world.”
Top government officials, diplomats and parliamentarians paid tribute to Rabbani, who was killed Tuesday in his house in Kabul by a suicide bomber.
Karzai said, “The martyred ‘ustad’ (teacher) was determined to continue efforts to achieve goals of reaching peace at any cost.”
Rabbani was the chief of the High Peace Council that was trying to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Karzai said: “We will continue efforts for peace which was the wish of (Rabbani), but we also take it as our duty to fight with those who are against.”
Rabbani was laid to rest on Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan hilltop, as the traditional 21 cannon shots were fired.
Earlier Friday, Rabbani’s casket was taken to the palace so that mourners could pay their final respects. The casket was draped in a red, black and green national flag.
Karzai and his deputies were not present at the burial, because of security reasons.
Most of Kabul’s city centre was locked down for the funeral. “We have extra security measures for today’s funeral service,” said Hashmat Stanikzai, a Kabul police spokesman.
Rabbani was a key ally of Karzai’s. His death has prompted fears of retribution and ethnic violence.
The assassin had delivered an audio recording of a purported peace deal from the Taliban to Karzai’s government, the president said Thursday.
The Taliban has not claimed any responsibility for the attack.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday flew to Kabul to pay his respects, but did not stay for the funeral.
Rabbani, a former mujahideen commander who fought the Soviet forces in the 1980s, became president in 1992, until the Taliban ousted him in 1996.