Tags: America's | War | Terror: | Day | 134

America's War On Terror: Day 134

Sunday, 17 February 2002 12:00 AM

Karzai also pledged to seek more peacekeepers for his war-ravaged country as British paratroopers associated with the International Security Assistance Force came under fire for the first time in the Afghan capital. In northern Afghanistan, meanwhile, fresh fighting broke out between rival warlords, causing injuries to at least 30 soldiers.

Talking to a Pakistani newspaper in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, Karzai also said he soon would release thousands of Pakistani volunteers languishing in Afghan jails. He said the Americans did not have any objection to their release, as most of volunteers who arrived in Afghanistan last October were religiously-motivated youth, not seriously involved with the former Taliban regime.

Karzai told a news briefing in Kabul Saudi authorities already had arrested two of the three suspects in the slaying of Aviation and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman in Kabul on Thursday. They had fled to the Saudi kingdom, which was sending them back.

"All the suspects will be dealt with very, very sternly. There will be no leniency in restoring law and order in Afghanistan," the Afghan leader said.

He also promised to announce the names of all the suspects as soon as they were arrested. The two unnamed officials were arrested in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, where they were hiding among Muslim pilgrims from Afghanistan making the annual Haj pilgrimage. They are among a dozen Karzai held responsible for killing Rahman.

Earlier reports said Rahman was beaten to death by Haj pilgrims frustrated at having to wait up to two days to get a plane to Mecca.

But after consulting his cabinet, Karzai called the killing an assassination, done to settle an old dispute within the ruling Northern Alliance faction.

The suspects include five senior military and defense officials and a Supreme Court justice, Haji Halim. Gen. Abdullah Tawhedi and Gen. Qalander Baig head the list of the suspects from the Ministry of Defense. Both are loyal to Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Fahim, who headed the Northern Alliance militia before joining the government.

Rahman was once allied with Fahim but later split and joined a rival faction.

Meanwhile, an official statement said Sunday one Afghan man was killed in Kabul on Saturday when international peacekeepers returned fire after being attacked.

An earlier statement said six British paratroopers came under fire for the first time in Kabul, when an unidentified gunman in a car sped past a British security post and began shooting.

Peacekeepers also had to fire at an unruly crowd in Kabul Friday during a soccer match between the Afghan national team and a team made up of international troops based there.

In Canberra, Australia, the government announced Sunday an Australian soldier fighting with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan was killed in a land mine explosion. This is Australia's first fatality in the war against terrorism.

In the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a rocket hit the warehouse of an aid agency during a fresh outbreak of fighting between rival warlords, officials said Sunday.

They said at least 30 soldiers also were wounded in the fighting between the commanders loyal to ethnic Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum and those affiliated with Fahim, who belongs to the rival Tajik ethnic group.

Dostum is Fahim's deputy in the interim government, but the two warlords often clash with each other in the north. Both want to oust the other from the strategically important town of Mazar-i-Sharif, gateway to neighboring Central Asian republics.

In another development, the first Pakistani commercial flight in 21 years landed at the Kabul airport Sunday. It was a chartered plane from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan also has provided an airbus to take Afghan pilgrims from Kabul to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Haj pilgrimage.

Karzai had earlier called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and requested him to send an airbus following ugly scenes at the Kabul airport. Hundreds of pilgrims have been waiting at the airport for days for a plane to take them to Saudi Arabia.

The official Afghan airlines, Ariana, has only one plane fit to fly.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Karzai also pledged to seek more peacekeepers for his war-ravaged country as British paratroopers associated with the International Security Assistance Force came under fire for the first time in the Afghan capital. In northern Afghanistan, meanwhile, fresh fighting broke...
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2002-00-17
Sunday, 17 February 2002 12:00 AM
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