South Asia

Murdered Afghan talks head Rabbani replaced by son

Salahuddin Rabbani pictured at Kabul Intercontinental Hotel October 4, 2011
Image caption Salahuddin Rabbani's father was killed last year

The son of murdered Afghan peace talks chief Burhanuddin Rabbani has been appointed to replace him.

Salahuddin Rabbani will chair the country's High Peace Council, which leads Afghan efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.

Mr Rabbani is currently ambassador to Turkey. His father, a former president and mujahideen leader, was killed by a suicide bomber last September.

His death was seen as a major blow to reconciliation efforts in the country.

Mr Rabbani was killed by a bomb hidden in the turban of a suicide attacker posing as a Taliban envoy.

The Taliban denied sanctioning the killing, which took place during a meeting at the former president's house in Kabul. Pakistan also denied suggestions it had any role in the attack.

Correspondents believe the attacker was among those Taliban members opposed to the talks initiative.

National appeal?

Image caption Burhanuddin Rabbani (centre) oversaw efforts to persuade the Taliban to give up arms

Salahuddin Rabbani is US educated and worked for the Afghan mission at the United Nations in New York before taking up his post as ambassador in Istanbul.

A presidential statement said he had been elected by a majority of High Peace Council members. His appointment was aimed at "consolidating national unity and preventing foreign interference", the statement said.

Mr Rabbani takes over after seven months during which the 70-member council has had no leader.

His task is complicated by the fact that the Taliban view the Western-backed government of Hamid Karzai as illegitimate. Last month the militants suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the United States, saying US efforts to involve the Afghan authorities were a key stumbling block.

Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former jihadi leader who fought Soviet troops, was viewed as a hard man for President Karzai to replace.

Although he was an ethnic Tajik leader from the north, Mr Rabbani had support in Pashtun areas in the south and east. He was seen as one of Afghanistan's cleverest and most influential politicians.

How much he achieved in his post, however, was unclear.

His peace council was credited with bringing over hundreds of Taliban field commanders, but Mr Rabbani failed to woo any senior figures away from the insurgency.

Whether his son fares better remains to be seen.

Salahuddin Rabbani will benefit from the support his father commanded but lacks his religious and tribal credentials, the BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says.