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Afghan Official Is Laid to Rest

Asia: Ten guards assigned to slain Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir are arrested. President Hamid Karzai vows to find his killers.

July 08, 2002|From Times Wire Services

KABUL, Afghanistan — Thousands of Afghans mourned assassinated Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir on Sunday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed to track down the killers.

Qadir's coffin, draped in flower-strewn velvet and flanked by two Afghan flags, was followed into Kabul's Eid Gha mosque by Karzai and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Qadir, a former anti-Soviet moujahedeen leader in eastern Afghanistan, was shot dead Saturday as he drove away from his office in the center of Kabul, the capital.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police have arrested 10 security guards who were supposed to have been keeping watch when Qadir was gunned down. Karzai will call for foreign help in cracking the case if local authorities are unable to make progress in their own investigation, Afghan television reported Sunday.

While calling Qadir's death "a loss for which there is no compensation," Karzai said the slaying would not be allowed to destabilize the country's fragile, multi-ethnic government.

"In the course of history, such things happen. But it doesn't weaken the Afghan will for peace and stability. It strengthens it," Karzai said.

Some angry mourners from Afghanistan's Pushtun majority said they believed that rival ethnic Tajik forces--possibly inside the government's Tajik-controlled security establishment--were behind the killing.

Others said the assassination could lead to violent retaliation by Pushtun groups.

"This is a huge blow to the country, and people are very upset," said Bashir, a teacher from Jalalabad, Qadir's home base. "This will cause big complications for establishing peace and security. The situation is potentially very dangerous."

"We of the eastern tribes demand that Karzai find these killers and put them on trial," said Mohammed Jabbarkhel, a Pushtun from Laghman province, whose voice rose with agitation as he spoke after the ceremony. "We have had many martyrs, and now our leader has been killed. We want revenge."

After the ceremony, Qadir's body was flown to Jalalabad, where late Sunday afternoon, he was buried outside a mosque, surrounded by more than 10,000 men, many of whom wept and shouted in anguish.

In Washington, U.S. lawmakers said Qadir's assassination should compel the United States to consider an active role in providing security. U.S. operations have been directed at pursuing Taliban and Al Qaeda fugitives, rather than peacekeeping. The international community has rejected appeals from Karzai to dispatch peacekeepers beyond the capital.

"This was definitely a throwback to the old Afghanistan and a setback to the establishment of the new Afghanistan," Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, concurred, saying on the same program that the United States would need to have "a long-term, sustained, strong leadership position" to stabilize the area.

"If we lose there, if this goes backward, this will be a huge defeat for us symbolically in that region, in the world," he said. "We cannot allow this to go down."

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