July 9, 2002
1058 IST

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Afghanistan mourns assassinated vice-president

Nick Macfie in Kabul

Flags on Kabul government buildings and Afghan diplomatic missions around the world flew at half mast on Tuesday, a day of mourning for a vice-president, whose killing has raised fresh concern about Afghanistan's future.

Special services were to be held at mosques across the capital, though most offices, shops and schools, including Kabul University, appeared to be opening for business as usual.

Vice-President and Public Works Minister Haji Abdul Qadir was shot dead in a hail of bullets in broad daylight on Saturday after his first morning in the new job as minister.

His two killers calmly climbed into a car and drove away, prompting the arrest of several ministry guards for standing by and doing nothing to stop their escape.

In all, 12 people have been detained in connection with the killing, but none is believed to have been directly responsible.

Qadir's murder has once again thrown into question the new government's ability to impose order in a country riven by tribal feuds and ethnic rivalry and battered by 23 years of war.

President Hamid Karzai said the shooting would be fully investigated and the Turkish-led International Security Assistance Force for Kabul on Monday accepted his invitation to join the hunt for those responsible.

"The intention is to have a completely neutral, fair, quick and professional investigation for prompt identification of the culprits," said Karzai's spokesman, Sayed Fazl Akbar.

ISAF has stepped up security, with more helicopter patrols swooping low over the streets between the mountains that encircle Kabul, but it did not say what expertise it could bring to the hunt for the killers.

Within hours of the shooting, journalists were allowed free access to Qadir's four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser which had crashed into a wall, its seats ripped up and covered in blood. Any bullet casings or other forensic evidence were probably trampled.

The investigation of another recent assassination provides little comfort.

In February, Tourism Minister Dr Abdul Rehman was murdered at Kabul Airport. Karzai named three members of the Northern Alliance -- the former opposition grouping of mostly ethnic minority forces that now makes up the core of the government -- as suspects and asked for their immediate extradition from Saudi Arabia where they were on pilgrimage.

The three returned but none has been arrested.

Another Northern Alliance official Karzai alleged was behind the killing was suspended from office. His name is General Deen Mohammad Jurat and he has since been promoted to the position of interior ministry security chief.

Qadir, a former anti-Soviet Mujahideen leader in eastern Afghanistan, was given a state funeral in Kabul and buried in his powerbase of Jalalabad in the east on Sunday.

Qadir was one of the few ethnic Pushtoons in the Northern Alliance that swept the Taliban from power last year, prompting speculation his killing might have been the work of loyalists of the Taliban, which was largely made up of members of the majority Pushtoon community.

His younger brother, mujahideen commander Abdul Haq, was executed by the Taliban when he was captured in eastern Afghanistan on a mission to rally opposition shortly after the United States launched air strikes last year.


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