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Memorial Service Held for Masood in Moscow


A memorial service was held Friday at a mosque in Moscow for Ahmed Shah Masood, the main opposition leader in the fight against the Taleban in Afghanistan.

To many of the people who turned out for Friday's service, Mr. Masood was a charismatic leader, and the best chance for defeating the Taleban who now control most of Afghanistan.

Mr. Masood led a loose coalition of organizations, known as the Northern Alliance, which controls about 10 percent of Afghanistan. He was assassinated earlier this month in a bomb blast set off by two men posing as journalists. The bombers, who said they wanted to interview Mr. Masood, were also killed in the explosion.

Zabi Rakhmani, an Afghan who now lives in Russia, came to the mosque on Friday to pay tribute to Mr. Masood.

He said Mr. Masood's death was a great loss for Afghanistan, but he believes that instead of driving people apart, his death will bring people together under a new leader.

Mr. Masood's death was a harsh blow to the opposition. Considered a keen military strategist, he was viewed as one of the few people capable of leading the often-warring factions that oppose the Taleban.

Most people at Friday's ceremony for Mr. Masood came to Russia years ago. By unofficial estimates, Moscow is home to about 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan, one of the largest refugee populations in a city of approximately 10 million.

Many at Friday's ceremony said they would like to go back to their home country when and if peace comes. But they say they do not want to go back now, fearing what action the United States might take to apprehend Osama bin Laden, the man the U.S. says is responsible for last week's terrorist attacks in the United States. Mr. bin Laden is believed to be living in Afghanistan.

As the memorial service was being held for Mr. Masood, news agencies reported that the Northern Alliance had launched a series of attacks against the Taleban.

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