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Karzai Survives Assassination Attempt

BY Admin  September 5, 2002 at 1:00 PM EST

An armed assailant believed to have been one of Karzai’s Afghan security guards opened fire on the president’s car as it left the provincial governor’s mansion in Kandahar. Karzai’s American bodyguards returned fire, killing at least three people.

Kandahar’s governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, was shot in the neck during the melee, although officials said they’re unsure whether he was hit in the original attack or in crossfire afterward. He is being treated at the U.S. air base in Kandahar.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. military at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul confirmed to the Associated Press that U.S. Special Forces assigned to Karzai had opened fire in response to the attack.

There was no immediate information about the assailant, White House spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

Although both President Karzai and the governor were riding in the same car, Afghan Defense Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said authorities believe Karzai was targeted in the attack, CNN reported.

Karzai had been traveling in a heavily guarded convoy and had waved to the throngs of people gathered on Kandahar’s streets to greet him. According to the BBC, Karzai had been leaning out the window of his car to greet the crowd when gunfire erupted.

After returning to the governor’s mansion, Karzai, who is in Kandahar to celebrate his younger brother’s wedding, told a BBC correspondent he was safe.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I expect things like this to happen.”

Hours earlier, at least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a massive car bomb explosion in Kabul.

The blast occurred near the Afghan Ministry of Information in downtown Kabul’s crowded market area, in front of a building containing shops and a small hotel.

Police spokesman Dul Aqa told the Associated Press the bomb was planted in a taxi, and witnesses said the major explosion followed a smaller blast.

The full number of casualties remained unclear, and officials said they are unsure who is responsible for the bombing.

At least 65 people were taken to one local hospital, the AP reported.

The car bombing was the bloodiest attack in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban last December.