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British Patrol Fired On in Kabul - 2002-02-21

British peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan came under fire Thursday for the second time in less than a week. There were no reports of casualties.

A spokesman for the peacekeepers, Jonathan Turner, says soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment came under fire while they were getting out of their vehicles to begin a foot patrol in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Mr. Turner says the British patrol and Afghan police returned fire, in what he describes as a brief firefight.

On Saturday, British forces said they returned fire after an observation post in Kabul came under attack in the same area. In that incident, a young Afghan was killed, and four others injured, including a pregnant woman.

British and Afghan police are still investigating that incident, but two British soldiers who were involved have been sent home. Witnesses are quoted as saying the peacekeepers had actually attacked an Afghan family driving the pregnant woman to the hospital, in violation of a night-time curfew.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's interim foreign minister, Abdullah, says he believes last week's murder of a Cabinet minister at the Kabul airport was not premeditated.

That appears to contradict interim leader Hamid Karzai's assertion that the killing of Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman was an assassination carried out for personal motives.

The Afghan minister was beaten to death last Thursday when the airport in Kabul was crowed with pilgrims trying to get to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj. They were frustrated and angry, because there were not enough planes.