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Afghan peace council head killed in Kabul

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) - The head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been tasked with trying to negotiate a political end to the war, was killed at his home on Tuesday, a senior police officer said.

His residence is in Kabul's heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, and the attack came just a week after a 20-hour siege at the edge of the area sometimes known as the "green zone."

"Rabbani has been martyred," Mohammed Zahir, head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kabul Police, told Reuters. He had no further details.

A police source said Masoom Stanekzai, a senior advisor to President Hamid Karzai, was badly injured in the attack.

"Masoom Stanekzai is alive but badly wounded," the police source, who asked not to be named as he is not authorized to talk to the media, told Reuters.

Rabbani, a former leader of a powerful mujahideen party during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was chosen by Karzai to head the High Peace Council last October.

His plan included offering amnesties and jobs to Taliban foot soldiers and asylum in third countries to leaders.

"This is a big blow to peace process and huge loss for Afghanistan," said Sadiqa Balkhi, a member of peace council.

"Professor Rabbani was an influential and spiritual leader and was successful in luring Taliban fighters into peace process."

Rabbani served as president in the 1990s when mujahideen factions waged war for control of the country after the Soviet withdrawal.

The assassination comes a week after a 20-hour gun and grenade attack that on Kabul's diplomatic enclave by insurgents, and three suicide bomb attacks on other parts of the city -- together the longest-lasting and most wide-ranging assault on the city.

Last week's siege was the third major attack on the Afghan capital since June and included three suicide bombing in other parts of the city. At least five policemen and 11 civilians were killed.

All three of those attacks are believed to be the work of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied insurgent faction, based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Martin Petty; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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