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Pakistan Closes Embassy in Afghanistan Amid Protests, Unrest - 2003-07-08

Pakistan has closed its embassy in Afghanistan after a group of Afghans attacked and ransacked the premises. Afghanistan government officials have condemned the attack and President Hamid Karzai has called Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to apologize.

Witnesses said about 2,000 Afghans, including some government officials, took to the streets of Kabul to protest alleged border incursions by Pakistani troops. They said several dozen protesters broke away from the rally and entered the Pakistani embassy.

Afghan officials say the group smashed windows and other furniture, but no staff members were hurt. Local security forces quickly evicted the protesters and sealed off the diplomatic mission.

Speaking to VOA by telephone from Kabul after he ordered the embassy closed, Pakistani Ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmmand blamed Afghan authorities for "stage-managing" the attack.

"They knew that this is the route of the procession and that the procession is going to attack the Pakistan mission. But in spite of all that, they took no precautions and we were just left exposed to the attackers…," he said.

Mr. Mohammand said he wants not only an apology, but better security for the embassy. "The mission just can not function now under these circumstances because everything is broken. The Afghan government have to compensate, and the Afghan government have to apologize, and the Afghan government have to provide adequate security," he said.

The demonstration in Kabul followed reports of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops. Some Afghan officials have also reported that Pakistani forces crossed into Afghanistan.

Pakistan has confirmed the clashes, but denies there were border incursions. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reportedly sent a high-level delegation to investigate the matter.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Karzai warned Pakistan not to interfere in Afghanistan's affairs. Pakistan was a strong supporter of the former Taleban government that was ousted by the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition for harboring terrorists.