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Killers of Afghan Vice President May Never Be Found, Says UN Commander - 2002-07-25

The Turkish commander of U.N. peacekeepers in Afghanistan says the assassins of Afghan Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir, gunned down in Kabul, earlier this month, may never be found. Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu says security in the capital is being tightened to prevent future assassinations.

General Zorlu says his U.N. peacekeeping force has begun what he describes as a speedy-but-thorough investigation of the Qadir assassination.

The vice president was killed July 6, as he was leaving the ministry of public works. He had 10 bodyguards around him. Witnesses say two gunmen fled in a taxi.

General Zorlu told a Thursday news conference those bodyguards are among 15 people being questioned by the U.N. International Security Assistance Force, in connection with the shooting. As of yet, no one has been charged.

The Turkish commander concedes his investigators may never be able to solve the murder. He says is still upset that he was not told about the crime as soon as it occurred.

"If we were informed within a couple of minutes, we could have helped police to catch them," he said. " We have many units in the city. But I was informed one-and-a-half hours later, after the assassination."

The U.N. force is taking a number of steps to prevent more assassinations. Turkish trainers have begun instructing 240 Afghan bodyguards from different ministries.

On the streets, police have begun random roadblocks that have turned up what General Zorlu describes as lot of weapons.

The general says he supports the deployment of U.S. special forces to take up guard duty around Afghan President Hamid Karzai, although he says he was not consulted about the matter. The American personnel were brought in to supplement Afghan guards after the Qadir assassination.

General Zorlu says he is unaware of specific threats against Mr. Karzai, but he says terrorists pose a general threat to the Afghan leader.