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Sunday's Attacks Deliberately Targeted Kabul Peacekeepers, say Officials


Officials of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul say they were deliberately targeted late Sunday, when two rockets were fired at their facilities. U.S.-led coalition forces, known as I-SAF, say several of their bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan were also attacked late Sunday by suspected remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida.

I-SAF officials say that two 122-millimeter rockets fired into Kabul Sunday were aimed directly at their facilities.

The 29-nation force, under joint German-Dutch command is responsible for security in and around Kabul.

One of the rockets hit a dormitory building at I-SAF headquarters. About 750 soldiers are stationed at the base, which is on the same road as the U.S. Embassy and several Afghan government ministries. The other rocket landed harmlessly near the Kabul military training center, on the outskirts of town, where I-SAF has a second base. Neither attack caused any injuries.

I-SAF's spokesman, German Army Colonel Thomas Lobbering, says the attacks were well planned.

"You are right. That is exactly our judgment as well," he said. "This is a significant difference from the type of attacks we experienced so far. It is far more sophisticated."

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks. Colonel Thomas Lobbering says I-SAF officials believe Hezb-I-Islami operatives loyal to renegade warlord Gulbiddin Hekmatyar were behind the attack.

"But there are indications that the groups, we call them Hezb-I-Islami Gulbiddin, so connected to Hekmatyar, may be brought into contact with this sort of attack," he said.

Colonel Lobbering says forces loyal to Gulbiddin Hekmatyar have been reorganizing for several months. The renegade warlord has threatened to overthrow Afghanistan's interim government and drive coalition and I-SAF forces out of Afghanistan.

U.S.-led coalition forces say 12 mortars were fired late Sunday at a coalition base at Shkin, near the Pakistan border. Two rockets were also fired at a coalition base in Gardez, about 100 kilometers south of Kabul. Neither attack caused any injuries or damage.

There have been a series of rocket attacks directed at U.S. and coalition forces over the past 10 days. In addition, there was an ambush attack on Saturday that killed two U.S. Special Forces soldiers.

Colonel Roger King, a spokesman for coalition forces at Bagram Air Base says, it is not clear if the attacks are connected with each other, or related to the start of the Iraq war.

"We had intelligence indications that the enemy may indeed use the beginning of hostilities in Iraq as a trigger for actions here," he said.

Saturday's ambush attack in Helmand province marks the first time since December that U.S. forces suffered battlefield fatalities in Afghanistan. Coalition authorities will not say whether they plan any imminent military action in the area where the attack took place. They say it shows the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan remains a very real danger.

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