Rabbani's assassination deals a potentially devastating blow to the effort to reconcile with the Taliban [FILE: EPA]
Afghans are mourning the death of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed in a suicide bombing in the capital, Kabul, on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people gathered on Wednesday on the blocked-off street around Rabbani's home, as armoured cars with blacked-out windows carried senior officials, friends and tribal leaders to a memorial service inside.
Rabbani, who headed a council to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Taliban, died at his home when a man he was due to hold talks with detonated hidden explosives.
In a statement, the Kabul police chief's office said the explosives had been hidden in the suicide bomber's turban.
Analysts said the killing was a blow to ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan.
The Taliban said in a statement on Wednesday that it did not want to comment on Rabbani's killing, and it rejected earlier reports in some media that the group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Until we receive more information and our information is complete, our position is that we cannot say anything on this issue," translated comments from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
"Those media who have quoted us on this issue, this is all baseless and we again say that we do not want to speak about this issue at this time."
Rabbani's assassination comes after a string of high-profile killings, including President Hamid Karzai's brother and senior northern police commander General Dawood Dawood.
Rabbani was the president of the Afghan government that preceded the Taliban, a period of civil war in which thousands of people died.
After he was driven away from Kabul by the Taliban in 1996, he became the nominal head of the Northern Alliance, which swept to power in the capital after the Taliban's fall in 2001.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who cut short a trip to the UN in New York upon hearing of the attack, called on Afghans to remain unified in the face of Rabbani's "martyrdom". An emergency cabinet meeting was called for on Wednesday.
"These attacks tell us that the policy of appeasement and deal making with the Taliban and Pakistan is not going to lead to peace"
- Amrullah Saleh, former Afghan intelligence chief
Karzai said Rabbani's death "will not deter us" from continuing the quest for peace.
Barack Obama, the US president, also condemned Rabbani's killing, calling it a "tragic loss".
"Despite this incident we will not be deterred from creating a path where Afghanistan can live in freedom and safety and security and prosperity," he said after meeting with Karzai on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, also condemned the killing and underscored the UN's commitment to "supporting Afghanistan and its people attaining peace and stability and to working in close co-operation with them," his spokesman said.
Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, also condemned the attack.
Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan intelligence chief who fought against the Taliban under Rabbani, told Al Jazeera the attacks showed the government's failure in protecting high-profile figures.
"These attacks tell us that the policy of appeasement and deal making with the Taliban and Pakistan is not going to lead to peace.
"By adapting a vague policy of so called reconciliation, [the government] has created confusion in our society and weakened the government to the extent that they can't even protect high-profiled leaders in the capital."
Rabbani's death could also unleash the resentment building up among some senior Northern Alliance members, who have criticised Karzai for his peace efforts with the Taliban, Saleh said.
"If Karzai wants to keep Afghanistan united, he has to launch massive massive investigations and bring the culprits to justice."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies