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Afghan President Narrowly Escapes Assassination Attempt - 2002-09-05


Afghanistan's Interim President Hamid Karzai narrowly escaped an assassination attempt Thursday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. President Bush expressed relief Mr. Karzai was unharmed. The assassination attempt took place shortly after a car bomb exploded in the Afghan capital, killing at least 10 people and injuring more than 30 others.

President Hamid Karzai was leaving the governor of Kandahar's residence on his way to visit a religious shrine in the southern Afghan city when the attack took place.

Senior government officials say a uniformed man standing near the president's car opened fire on Mr. Karzai's entourage. The alleged assassin and one of Mr. Karzai's Afghan bodyguards was killed in the incident but Mr. Karzai was not hurt. Several other people, including Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai, were injured.

The attack took place shortly after a car bomb exploded on a busy Kabul street. The car bomb attack which devastated an entire city block was the worst terrorist incident in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taleban nearly one year ago.

Afghanistan's interim Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says he believes Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is involved in both the failed assassination attempt and the car bomb attack in the Afghan capital.

"Certainly it was a terrorist action. The incident today which led to the tragedy of so many people in the streets of Kabul was also a terrorist act, and terrorists are behind both attempts; there is no doubt about it," he said. "Terrorists in this region are led by Osama bin Laden and his associates. So it will be right for me to say that the main suspects are terrorists led by Osama."

Over the past two weeks there have been several small bombings in cities across Afghanistan, raising security concerns across the country.

Now, those concerns have been heightened. Scheduled observances are to be held across Afghanistan in memory of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated last September 9, and the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says despite Thursday's attacks, Afghanistan's government can meet the security challenge.

"Of course this creates concerns among the population. But, as the government, we have to focus on our own work and do our best. It just strengthens out commitment - our determination - in the war against terror," Mr. Abdullah emphasized. "It is also further evidence that the war against terror in Afghanistan is far from over. While significant achievements are there, hard work needs to be done and by the international community in order to create a situation so these things will not happen."

Mr. Abdullah says at this point there are no plans to cancel or postpone any of the scheduled observances to mark last year's assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud or the September 11 attacks in the United States. Afghans, he says, will not allow the remnants of the Taleban or al-Qaida to disrupt their progress towards a free democratic society.

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