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Afghan Peacekeepers Come Under Rocket Attack


In Afghanistan, an early Sunday morning rocket attack on a compound housing international peacekeeping troops and staff is heightening fears of more instability in the Afghan capital.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says one of its compounds in the east of the city was nearly hit by one of two missiles launched toward the building early Sunday morning. There have been no reports of injuries.

The missile, described as a Chinese-made 107 mm rocket, landed several meters outside of the compound walls where it exploded. The second missile sailed over the building and has not yet been located.

Peacekeepers believe this attack is different than previous attacks that have targeted ISAF soldiers. For the past three months, gunmen have periodically fired on troops on patrol in various parts of the city. But ISAF spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Neal Peckham says Sunday's attack was the second time someone has targeted an ISAF compound with missiles.

The first such attack occurred a month ago at the Kabul airport where some of the 4,800 multi-national soldiers are based. The rocket misfired and no one was hurt in the incident.

"The weapons system is exactly the same as it was used then," said Col. Peckham. "It is a feeling at the moment that this is not, in the wider sense, an al-Qaida-type of attack against coalition forces but probably something to do with the arrests that have taken place in the last few days and the feeling that it is probably an attempt to cause some disruption prior to the loya jirga," he said, referring to the grand council that will choose a new Afghan government.

On Thursday, police in Kabul arrested 300 people in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government of interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and to disrupt the loya jirga planned for June. One hundred sixty people remain in custody suspected of being members of a hardline Islamic group opposed to the current government.

The U.N.-mandated ISAF, which is made up mainly of NATO nations and led by Britain, has been deployed in Kabul since January 3 to enhance security for the war-torn city.