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Motive Unknown in Assassination of Afghan Vice President - 2002-07-06

A key member of Afghanistan's interim government has been assassinated in Kabul.

Afghan officials said unidentified gunmen have shot dead Vice President and Minister for Public Works Haji Abdul Qadir outside his office in central Kabul. Witnesses said dozens of rounds were fired at his car as it left his office compound. Mr. Qadir's driver was also killed in the attack. The gunmen escaped.

Reports said his car crashed into a wall as bullets riddled the side and windscreen. Two other passengers are said to have been injured in the attack. Witnesses said the attackers were posing as guards outside the ministry compound.

Afghan Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Wardak told reporters in Kabul that the motive behind the attack is not yet clear. He said authorities are investigating.

Kabul police chief Basir Salangi said 10 guards at the public works ministry have been detained in connection with the assassination.

Mr. Qadir was a veteran warlord from eastern Afghanistan and played a leading role in the downfall of the Taleban in December.

The Afghan vice president was one of few Pashtun members in the interim government headed by Hamid Karzai. His appointment was seen as an attempt to provide ethnic balance in the existing Afghan administration, after complaints from Pashtuns that they were being sidelined in favor of minority Tajiks.

Mr. Qadir was the brother of former commander Abdul Haq, who was assassinated by the Taleban in October, as he tried to organize a rebellion against the hardline Islamic movement.

Earlier this year, the Afghan tourism minister was killed at the Kabul airport under circumstances which have never been made clear.