Afghans mourn former president at palace ceremony

Afghans are mourning the country's first post-communist president, Sibghatullah Mujadidi, at a palace ceremony attended by his former comrades-in-arms, including his one-time spokesman and protege, former President Hamid Karzai.

The ceremony Wednesday at Afghanistan's presidential palace was a solemn affair, with Mujadidi's coffin draped in a giant green shawl emblazoned with versus from the Quran, Islam's holy book, and later the Afghan flag. Mujadidi died early Tuesday.

President Ashraf Ghani extolled Mujadidi's contributions to evicting Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s, saying "his death has saddened the entire nation." Mujadidi was the first president following the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the 1992 collapse of Kabul's pro-communist government.

A second service is to be held later Wednesday in Kabul's sports stadium for the general public.