Gunmen Attack British Peacekeepers
Sun Feb 17,12:06 AM ET
By LAURA KING, AP Special Correspondent
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Peacekeepers in the Afghan capital came under fire for the first time Saturday, their commander said. Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, speaking at the grave of a slain government minister, prayed for an end to "the culture of the knife and the gun."
The shooting was the latest in violence this week that has raised security worries in the capital, which has been calm since Karzai's government was inaugurated in December.
The six British peacekeepers returned fire after their observation post was shot at early Saturday, the commander said. Later, a patrol found one person dead in a nearby house, he said.
Also, a group of Afghan civilians in Kabul reported they were shot at about 1 a.m. Saturday near a peacekeepers' post as they were trying to drive a pregnant woman to the hospital. A 19-year-old man was killed.
It was not immediately clear if the two incidents were linked, or if the two posts were the same.
On Thursday, a Cabinet minister was killed in an attack at Kabul's airport. Karzai blamed a conspiracy within his own government. On Friday, more than 50 people were hurt in a club-swinging melee outside a soccer match organized by the peacekeepers.
At Saturday's funeral for Abdul Rahman, the slain minister of aviation and tourism, Karzai called for an end to "the culture of the knife and the gun" in Afghanistan (news - web sites).
"With God's help in the future, no one will do these kinds of things any more," a somber Karzai told the crowd of several thousand people gathered in the muddy cemetery.
The dead man's brother, Naser, appealed to Karzai: "Please capture the people who did this."
Details were scarce on the shooting early Saturday involving the peacekeepers. British Col. Richard Barrons, the peacekeepers' chief of staff, did not say what time his men's observation post was fired on, or in what part of the capital the incident occurred.
Barrons reported no injuries among the British soldiers, and said they were "extracted" after returning fire.
He also gave no details on the dead person, who he said was found by a joint patrol of peacekeepers and Afghan police in a nearby house along with five injured people. A car damaged by gunfire was also found.
Barrons said the injured were hospitalized, and that their injuries did not come from gunfire.
Kabul resident Masrolah Yaqeibi said he and four others were fired on as they borrowed a neighbor's car to take a pregnant woman to the maternity hospital.
"We wanted to move the car ... and then they started shooting at us," he told Associated Press Television News. "Due to that, one boy died and three others were injured. We don't have any weapons — we are civilians."
A neighbor, Karim Ehaeuri, said he was awakened by shooting and the sound of women and children crying.
"I came at 8 o'clock in the morning and I saw blood," he said, adding that he saw Western troops in the area.
An observation post atop a building that neighbors said was used by peacekeepers was visible from the street. It appeared to be vacant when APTN spoke to witnesses Saturday evening.
Asked about the report of civilians who were shot at, Jonathan Turner, a spokesman for the security force, said he had no further details on the dead person found in the area. He underlined that British troops opened fire "because they were fired at first."
"They certainly would not have opened fire first," he said. "There was definitely fire directed at their position."
The investigation was also continuing into the death of Rahman, the Interior Ministry said, but no new arrests were made Saturday. Three men were in custody and three high-ranking government officials who apparently escaped to Saudi Arabia were being sought.
However, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the kingdom had not received any official request from Afghanistan to apprehend the three, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. He also said authorities checking identification at the border hadn't come across anyone with the names of the suspects.
"When we come to it, we will see," he said.
The three men believed to have left for Saudi Arabia were identified as Gen. Abdullah Jan Tawhidi, the deputy intelligence chief; Gen. Kalandar Beg, a Defense Ministry official; and a Justice Ministry official identified only as Halim.
Witnesses and official accounts initially said Muslim pilgrims stormed Rahman's plane, furious he was intending to use Ariana's sole Boeing 727 for an official trip to New Delhi while they waited for flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
But Karzai said the killing had "nothing to do" with the pilgrims, and that the conspirators killed Rahman because of a years-old factional feud. He did not make clear, however, whether the alleged plotters stirred up the crowd to kill him or used the melee as a cover for their own attack.
International peacekeepers, who were less than a quarter-mile away at the time of Rahman's killing, reported Saturday that a group of between 30 and 50 "troublemakers" — dressed differently than those embarking on the pilgrimage — had beaten the president of Ariana Airlines about an hour before the fatal confrontation.
The airline president, Rahullah Aman, was rescued by peacekeepers when he ran toward the military part of the airport, which they control. But peacekeeping officials said no one from the security force had witnessed the minister's killing, and that the peacekeepers had not been asked to intervene to protect him.
The brutal slaying and the casting of blame on a faction within the Karzai government raised fears over the interim administration's ability to keep public order in post-Taliban Afghanistan — and to keep internal rivalries from tearing apart the new leadership.
Thwarted plans for the pilgrimage sparked anger in southern city of Kandahar, where restive crowds milled outside banks Saturday to get back money they had paid for travel to Saudi Arabia. Authorities said the city's bomb-damaged airport was not ready to take large passenger planes, although it is used by the U.S.-led military coalition.
Some 5,000 people paid local authorities $1,600 each for a "hajj package," said Yusuf Pashtun, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial government. He promised full refunds.
In other developments:
_More than 100 peacekeepers from Turkey arrived Saturday, the first soldiers from a Muslim country to join the international security patrols in Kabul.
_Taliban officials greatly inflated the number of people living in Afghanistan's largest camp for displaced people, the International Organization for Migration said. The population of the Maslakh camp, near the western city of Herat, is 118,000, the organization said. Until now, aid agencies have supplied aid based on a figure of 324,000.
_ An Australian soldier fighting with the U.S.-led coalition was killed in a land mine explosion, the Australian government said Sunday. The soldier, who was not identified, died Saturday when his patrol vehicle rode over the mine. He was part of a regiment seeking out and observing weapons dumps left by retreating Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Australia has committed 1,550 military personnel to the war.
|Back to News Archirves of 2002|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).