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Karzai: Afghan Aviation Minister Assassinated

BY Admin  February 15, 2002 at 4:37 PM EDT

Earlier reports had stated that the aviation and tourism minister was killed by an angry mob of pilgrims who had been stranded at the Kabul airport for several days.

“He was killed by people who planned it,” Karzai told reporters, claiming a group of six high-ranking government officials had planned the murder.

According to Karzai, three of the suspected men are in Afghan custody and three have fled to Saudi Arabia.

“We are asking the Saudis to arrest them and bring them back. We will try them. We will put them behind bars,” Karzai said.

Afghan Information Minister Abdul Rahim Makhdoom told reporters today that senior officials from the Afghan defense, intelligence, and justice departments are wanted in connection with the apparent lynching.

Those at large include Gen. Abdullah Jan Tawhidi, head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service department, and Gen. Kalandar Beg, a deputy from the defense ministry.

Witnesses at the Kabul airport originally reported that Rahman was killed by angry pilgrims waiting to make the sacred pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islamic people and Muslims are obligated to make at least one pilgrimage within their lifetime.

The mob apparently swarmed Rahman’s plane destined for New Delhi after hearing rumors that Rahman had caused the delays and even canceled flights to Saudi Arabia.

Several witnesses said that Rahman emerged from the plane to calm the enraged crowd when he was seized, thrown onto the tarmac and beaten to death. It is unclear how much of those reports is true.

Karzai denied the reports that pilgrims were responsible for the attack saying Rahman’s death “has nothing to do with hajjis.”

The interim leader, who had met with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw earlier, said the killing demonstrated the need for an expanded international peacekeeping mission.

“The United Nations Security Council resolution will almost certainly be extended. It needs to be extended. And we will support that,” Straw said in agreement.

A spokesman for international peacekeepers said a contingent of British and French troops stationed less than a quarter-mile from the Kabul airport were unaware of the gravity of the situation.

“We were not involved. It’s not our jurisdiction,” British Capt. Graham Dunlop told reporters, adding that the civilian area of the Kabul airport was guarded by Afghan authorities.

Scuffle at Kabul’s soccer stadium

The news of the apparent assassination came as concerns over security in Kabul deepened as another fight erupted at the city’s main soccer stadium on Friday.

Hoards of people had crowded the stadium to see a “goodwill” match between international peacekeepers and an Afghan team.

Witnesses said Afghan police beat back the crowd that had rushed the gates entering the arena with clubs and rifle butts and set off smoke bombs.

Fifty Afghans and five peacekeepers were reported injured. The soccer match continued, however with the international team winning 3-1.