M A I N   N E W S

Karzai escapes Taliban attack

Kabul, April 27
Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped unhurt today after an assassination attempt by Taliban fighters who fired guns and rockets at an official celebration near the presidential palace in Kabul.

Karzai, government ministers, former warlords, diplomats and the military top brass ducked for cover after gunfire sounded at the event to mark the 16th anniversary of the fall of the Afghan communist government to the Mujahideen.

Karzai later appeared on the state television to address the nation. “Today, the enemies of Afghanistan, the enemies of Afghanistan’s security and progress tried to disrupt the ceremony and cause disorder and terror,” Karzai said.

“Fortunately, Afghanistan’s military forces surrounded them quickly and arrested some of the suspects.” The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

British ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles was standing on the front row of the dais alongside the US envoy to Kabul.

“It was coming to the end of the 21-gun salute. I saw an explosion and a puff of dust to the left of the parade and then heard the crackle of small arms fire from all directions,” he told Reuters.

“After some hesitation, my bodyguard frog-marched me away.” All Cabinet members and foreign diplomats at the parade, along with Gen Dan McNeill, US commander of international forces in Afghanistan, were safe, a spokesmen said.

But three persons were killed and 10 wounded, including a member of parliament. Those killed were another parliamentarian, the head of a minority group and a 10-year-old child.

Taliban attackers killed

The Taliban fire appeared to come from a building a few hundred metres from the site, a road which was blocked for official parades, close to the presidential palace.

“Three of our attackers have been killed and three managed to escape. Small arms and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) were used in the attack,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters from an undisclosed location.

The attack disproved Afghan government and NATO assertions that the Taliban insurgency has been weakened, he said.

“The Afghan and NATO authorities this year repeatedly said the Taliban are on the verge of annihilation .... Now, it is has been proved to them the Taliban not only have the ability to operate in the provinces, but even in Kabul,” said Mujahid.

“Karzai and his cabinet can’t be safe from Taliban attacks.”

Karzai has survived several assassination attempts since he came to power after US-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for failing to hand over Al-Qaida leaders behind the September11 attacks on the US.

India condemns assassination bid

New Delhi: India on Sunday condemned the assassination attempt on Karzai, describing it as a “dastardly” act and asked the international community to show zero tolerance for terrorism.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed relief that Karzai was unhurt. — Reuters, PTI



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