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Taliban sent 'peace' CD before Rabbani's murder to gain access

A recording of a purported Taliban peace offer allowed an assassin to get an appointment with Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led the High Peace Council, and kill him in a suicide bombing, Afghan officials say.

KABUL // The suicide bomber who killed Afghanistan's former president gained access to him by presenting officials with a recording of a purported Taliban peace offer.

Hamid Karzai, the new president, said yesterday that the CD allowed the assassin to get an appointment with Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led the High Peace Council.

His death was a devastating blow to efforts of negotiating a peace settlement with the Taliban to end the decade-long war. The assassin, who hid a bomb in his turban, killed 70-year-old Rabbani on Tuesday at his home in Kabul.

Mr Karzai said that before he left for New York last weekend, one of his advisers, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, told him that the Taliban had a message for the Afghan peace council.

Mr Stanekzai, a peace council official, was wounded in the attack that killed Rabbani.

"Stanekzai brought me a message that someone had come from the Taliban movement and brought with them an audio CD in which there was a message from a Taliban representative," Mr Karzai said.

The president listened to the disc before leaving to attend the UN General Assembly.

He said the voice on the recording spoke respectfully about Rabbani, adding: "There were a couple of questions and suggestions mentioned regarding peace."

Mr Karzai then talked with Rabbani, who rushed home from a trip to Iran to listen to the recording.

But "it was not a peace message, it was a trick," said Mr Karzai. "The messenger was the killer."

Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, said officials believe that Rabbani's killing had been planned for four months and that the Taliban's governing council, the Quetta Shura, was behind the assassination.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said they were investigating the killing.

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