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Senior Afghan Officials Arrested in Connection with Killing of Minister - 2002-02-15

At least three senior Afghan officials have been arrested in connection with Thursday's killing of the country's Air Transport and Tourism minister. Interim leader Hamid Karzai says several other senior security officials are being sought.

It was earlier reported the minister had been beaten to death at Kabul airport by a mob of angry Muslim pilgrims.

Mr. Karzai said the killing of Air Transport and Tourism minister Abdul Rahman was a well planned personal vendetta - a blood feud over factional differences dating back to the resistance against the Taleban.

Several senior officials believed to have been involved have been named, including two generals and officials in the security services. Interim Information Minister Abdul Rahim Makhdoom said several people were arrested and several others were said to have fled to Saudi Arabia along with Muslim pilgrims. Mr. Karzai requested their return so they can be brought to justice.

Mr. Rahman was killed Thursday when he was dragged from a plane at Kabul airport and beaten. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries. It was earlier believed he had been killed by a mob of Muslim pilgrims angered over delays of flights to the annual holy pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Witnesses had told VOA earlier Friday they had seen the minister being attacked by an angry mob.

Police and armed soldiers cordoned off the airport Friday and restricted access. Despite the incident, two flights did depart for Mecca later in the day.

The killing highlights the still precarious security situation in Afghanistan, even in the capital, amid continuing simmering factional differences and feuds.