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Afghans Protest Killing of Former President

A supporter of Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghanistan president and head of the government's peace council, holds his picture while standing outside his house a day after he was killed in Kabul September 21, 2011.

Hundreds of Afghans gathered Wednesday to protest the killing of former Afghan president and peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani at his home in Kabul.

Police say Rabbani, who served as president from 1992 to 1996, was killed Tuesday by a suicide attacker who detonated a bomb hidden in his turban. Officials say the attacker had claimed to be an emissary from the Taliban carrying a special message and met Rabbani in his home.

NATO officials blamed two suicide bombers for the attack, saying they were feigning a desire to conduct reconciliation talks. A Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the group carried out the attack and had appointed two articulate and well-trained fighters to build contacts with Rabbani.

Another reported Taliban spokesman rejected that claim, telling the French news agency on Wednesday that the group would not comment about the attack.

At least four other people were killed in the blast, and one of President Hamid Karzai's key advisors, Masoom Stanekzai, was wounded.

Karzai condemned the assassination Tuesday saying the former Afghan president sacrificed his life for the sake of Afghanistan and peace. Karzai was set to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, but he cut short his U.S. trip and returned to Afghanistan following Tuesday's attack.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination "in the strongest possible terms." He said the U.N. remains committed to supporting Afghanistan and its people in attaining peace and stability, and to working in close cooperation with the Afghan people.

Rabbani headed the country's High Peace Council and was in contact with elements of the insurgency in order to find a peaceful political settlement to the conflict.

On Wednesday, crowds of mourners carrying his pictures and banners gathered on a street outside of his house, while a string of government officials arrived to pay their respects amid tight security. Rabbani's funeral is expected to be held in the capital sometime this week.

In other violence, at least 10 policemen were killed in a bomb attack in southern Ghazni province late Tuesday.

Officials say the police chief for Waghaz District, Mohammad Juma, was killed in the attack, which occurred as police were searching a building in the area for militants.

Also in the south, NATO says two of its service members were killed in an insurgent attack. No further details were released.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.