Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose emotional and tempestuous funeral took place only hours ago, was assassinated this week in Kabul as part of an elaborate plot. As The New York Times reports today, Taliban members spent months wooing Afghan officials and pretending that the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership council in Pakistan, was ready for peace talks with the Afghan government's High Peace Council, which Rabbani led. A Quetta Shura emissary then stayed at a peace council guesthouse and presented council members with a CD promising peace, only to detonate explosives hidden in his turban as he greeted Rabbani in his home and embraced him. Peace council member Rahmatullah Wahidyar, who was injured in the attack, tells the Times that when he regained consciousness, "I saw the guy lying at my feet, and I saw his body without his head."
The turban bomb, according to a Reuters report earlier this month, represents a new tactic for insurgents in Afghanistan. In fact, Rabbani's death marks the fourth time the strategy has been used since July 14, when a suicide bomber concealing explosives in his turban blew himself up outside a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Kandahar. Subsequent turban attacks killed Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi and targeted the Helmand Military Corps Center on Afghanistan's Independence Day. In early August, Karzai urged the country's religious leaders to "convince militants not to use turbans and other religious attire to carry out suicide bombings, not to target mosques and to make them aware that suicide was un-Islamic," according to Reuters. Meanwhile, guards at some government ministries in Kabul began asking men to remove their turbans for security checks.