Afghans paid tribute Monday to former Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood, who was assassinated one year ago by suspected al-Qaida terrorists at his base in northern Afghanistan.
Security in Kabul is tight following last week's assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai and a bomb blast that left more than 20 people dead in the Afghan capital the same day.
Helicopters from the multinational International Security Assistance Force circled Kabul's sports stadium as thousands of government workers, students and senior officials paid tribute to Ahmad Shah Masood.
A mortal enemy of the Taleban, Ahmad Shah Masood, who was the Northern Alliance military commander, had been pushed back to his stronghold in the Panjshir Valley when he was killed on September 9, 2001, by two suspected al-Qaida terrorists posing as journalists.
Sitting in Kabul stadium Monday, just a few meters from the goalposts where Taleban soldiers carried out public executions, Hafifa Nasemi, the principal of Kabul's Manoucheri Girls School, said she was happy to be able to come pay her respects to Ahmad Shah Masood. Mrs. Nasemi said life under the Taleban had been unbearable, that she had been unable to work under the Taleban and that she and her daughters were prisoners in their own home for five years. Now, she says, she and her daughters feel they have been given their lives back.
Known as the Lion of the Panjshir Valley, Ahmad Shah Masood was a brilliant military commander and tactician. His ragtag forces fought the Soviet Army to a standstill in the 1980s and then battled with other Afghan commanders for control of Kabul during a vicious civil war in the early 1990s that devastated Kabul and large parts of Afghanistan.
Although many Afghans remembered Ahmad Shah Masood with fondness on Monday, placing his picture in shop windows and hoisting black flags in his memory, some Afghans hold less charitable views of the ethnic Tajik military leader.
Standing in the shell of a building he is renovating in West Kabul, Ahmad Reza, a young contractor from Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority, said he cannot forgive Ahmad Shah Masood for destroying Kabul's traditional ethnic Hazara neighborhood while fighting for control of the city ten years ago.
Ahamd Reza said he respects Ahmad Shah's reputation as a fighter against the Russians and the Taleban, but that every time he sees the destruction caused by the late commanders forces, his respect fades away.
One person absent from Monday's memorial observances was Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Karzai is visiting New York to meet with President Bush, address the U.N. General Assembly and attend a memorial for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Before he left for the United States, Mr. Karzai traveled Saturday to Ahmad Shah Masood's village in the Panjshir Valley, to pay respects to the late commander's family in an emotional memorial service attended by thousands of the guerrilla leader's troops and followers.