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“How can we feel safe?” he asked. “Look what happened to Rabbani.”

The street where Mr. Rabbani lived was under tight security Wednesday, and those gathered outside feared another suicide attack because so many dignitaries were there paying their respects.

A black cloth, a symbol of mourning, was draped over a wall. Throughout the day, top clerics, tribal leaders, government officials, former jihadi commanders and members of Mr. Rabbani’s party streamed in and out of the house as a loudspeaker broadcast readings of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

The dignitaries included Gen. Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the vice president; Abdullah Abdullah, a top opposition leader who ran against Mr. Karzai in the last election; Ismail Khan, a former warlord and current minister of water and power; and Atta Mohammed Noor, a powerful governor of Balkh province in the north. Local citizens denounced the Taliban, saying it was shameful for insurgents to kill an old man working for peace.

Neyamatullah Shahrani, a religious adviser to Mr. Karzai, said it will be difficult to replace Mr. Rabbani.

“He belonged to all Afghans. He was serving all the Afghan people. It’s too early to say how it will affect the peace efforts, but it is very difficult to replace Rabbani. He had relations with all these tribes in Afghanistan.”

The Pakistani government and leaders across the world condemned the killing. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Mr. Karzai as he rushed back to Kabul from the United States.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, police chief in Kabul, said the Taliban was behind it.

When contacted by the Associated Press, Taliban spokesmen declined to discuss the killing, and spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said they were still investigating the killing.

“We are still gathering information on this. Right now our position is that we cannot say anything about this incident,” Mr. Mujahid said in a statement posted Wednesday on a Taliban website.

In Washington, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Mr. Rabbani’s assassination a “great setback” for the cause of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

“Former President Rabbani was a historic figure who fought the Taliban in the 1990s and who continued to work for peace and stability as the head of the High Peace Council,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “Afghanistan’s enemies want to use his death along with other previous attacks to destabilize the region. We cannot let that happen. Too much is at stake for the people of Afghanistan and the country’s future.”

Afghans at Mr. Rabbani’s home blamed the Haqqani network, a militant organization based in Pakistan and affiliated with the Taliban and al Qaeda that has conducted several attacks in the capital.

And some criticized the government for failing to provide security while standing just steps away from its top officials.

“They are continuing to kill our leaders,” said Mr. Rashuddin, who was a close associate of Mr. Rabbani‘s. “How can the bombers get into Kabul? How can they get into the house close to Rabbani? There should be tight security. The Americans are saying they are for peace and security while our leaders are dying in front of our eyes.”

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