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Friends, Family Pay Last Respects to Murdered Afghan Minister

Family members prepared to bury Afghanistan's interim Air Transport and Tourism minister Saturday. The minister was killed at Kabul airport Thursday night in what the government is describing as a well planned murder-assassination.

Friends and family gathered at the home of minister Abdul Rahman Saturday morning to pay their last respects prior to the burial.

The minister was killed Thursday in what was initially described as a spontaneous attack by a mob of Muslim pilgrims, angered over flight delays to the holy city of Mecca. But late Friday interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said the minister's death had nothing to do with the pilgrims, but was instead part of a well planned vendetta. He said the plot stemmed from a feud over factional differences, dating back to the years of resistance against the Taleban. Mr. Karzai said several senior government and security officials were involved.

Three people have already been arrested and three others are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia, posing as pilgrims on their way to Mecca. According to a senior U.S. official the Saudi government has said it would return the three if they are found.

The suspects named by the interim government are all senior leaders in the dominant Jamiat-Islami faction of the Northern Alliance. Mr. Rahman had broken with the faction some time ago.

Minister Abdul Rahman's death highlights the precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the difficulty in establishing a united, cohesive government in a country still rife with factional and tribal tensions. Until now tribal differences and clashes have occurred in some of the outlying provinces. The death of minister Abdul Rahman, however, struck close to home in the midst of the interim administration in the capital itself.