Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the suicide bomber who killed former president Burhannuddin Rabbani used a fake peace message from the Taliban to gain access to the peace broker.
Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, was killed Tuesday at his Kabul home when the attacker detonated explosives in his turban. Rabbani was leading efforts to find a political solution to the 10-year Afghan war.
President Karzai said Thursday that the suicide bomber had presented officials with an audio message of a purported Taliban peace offer. The president told reporters in Kabul that he had listened to the recording before leaving to attend this week's United Nations General Assembly in New York. Karzai cut short his U.S. trip after Rabbani was killed.
The president said one of his advisors, Masoom Stanekzai, gave him the audio message. Stanekzai was wounded in Tuesday's attack. Officials say the killer had waited at a guest house in the Afghan capital for four days to see former President Rabbani.
Who backed assassination?
At a separate news conference, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence agency said officials believe Taliban's leadership body, the Quetta Shura, was behind the assassination.
There is conflicting information regarding the claim of responsibility.
A Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency that the group carried out the attack, but another Taliban spokesman rejected that claim and said the insurgent group would not comment about Rabbani's assassination.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Kabul Thursday to offer his condolences and attend Rabbani's funeral on Friday.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker on Thursday called the former Afghan president's killing a brutal murder. Crocker also pledged U.S. and international support for Afghan peace efforts.
In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told lawmakers during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the Taliban's recent high-profile attacks are a sign of "weakness" and reflect a shift in momentum "in our favor" in the Afghan war.
In other news, NATO says a joint Afghan and coalition security force killed a Taliban commander who was the target of an earlier operation in which 30 American troops were killed in a helicopter crash.
Taiban leader killed
The alliance says Qari Tahir was killed in an air strike Tuesday in Afghanistan's central Wardak province.
NATO says Tahir was the Taliban's top leader in Tangi Valley and the target of the August 5 operation, during which the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down.
The crash also killed seven Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter.
The insurgents responsible for shooting down the helicopter were killed days later in an airstrike.
NATO says Tahir was responsible for coordinating attacks against Afghan fighters as well as kidnappings for ransom and hijacking of convoy vehicles. The statement says he was also known to use roadside bombs and rockets to intimidate the local population.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.