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Security Concerns Heightened in Afghanistan - 2003-06-10

International peacekeepers in Kabul, Afghanistan, have paid last respects to four of their German comrades, killed in a suicide bombing on Saturday. U.N. officials say security concerns are high as these are the first such killings in the Afghan capital.

Hundreds of members of Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force gathered Tuesday for a memorial service to honor the four German soldiers before their remains were returned home.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva says Saturday's suicide bombing is prompting particular concern among Kabul's international community, as it is the first such terror attack against peacekeepers there. He adds that Afghan citizens are also very troubled. "When I talk to Afghan people here, above all what they feel is a sense of embarrassment, that people who came to help them, were killed in such a way," he says.

In addition to killing the four Germans, the bombing also took the life of an Afghan civilian and wounded dozens of other soldiers and bystanders.

European forensic experts are studying the suspected bomber's remains and debris from the taxi used to carry out the attack, in an effort to determine the perpetrator's identity.

But Mr. de Almeida e Silva says local authorities will play a key role in the investigation. "They have the responsibility for security and they do have many means, above all the contacts, and the means to collect intelligence."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, is vowing to work to prevent future attacks and has said he believes the suicide bomber was not an Afghan. He is also downplaying suspicions that the attack represents a resurgence in activity by supporters of the ousted Taleban regime.

Germans soldiers make up more than 40 percent of the almost five-thousand strong international peacekeeping force authorized to maintain security in Kabul. They also command the force jointly with the Dutch, but are slated to turn over that authority to NATO this August.

The United Nations mandated deployment of the peacekeepers in December 2001 - after the Taleban was ousted by a U.S.-led military operation against terrorism.

Peacekeepers are confined to the capital, however, and some observers have called for expansion of the force into the provinces, where warlord militias still control much of the country.