The Times, April 28, 2008
Taliban breach major security in fourth Karzai assassination attempt
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for yesterday's incident, said that the assault proved that their forces could operate anywhere in Afghanistan
Richard Beeston in Kabul
President Karzai narrowly escaped with his life yesterday after Taliban gunmen attacked an Independence Day ceremony in Kabul, sending ambassadors and generals diving for cover, and dealing a fresh blow to Afghanistan's fragile security.
Three people, including an Afghan MP and a child, were killed and eleven injured in the attack, when a group of gunmen opened fire on a military parade marking the sixteenth anniversary of the fall of the Soviet-backed communist Government in Kabul.
After six years of US-led military support, security on the ground continues to deteriorate. No more vivid illustration of this is provided by yesterday's attack on a military parade in Kabul, in which heavily armed militants got within 100 yards of a target-rich assembly of government ministers, former warlords and foreign diplomats.
The Guardian, April 28, 2008
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador to Kabul, described scenes of pandemonium as bullets flew, a rocket exploded and dignitaries and soldiers in ceremonial dress dived for cover or ran for their lives. “I was at the parade in the front row with the American Ambassador and a few feet away from General McNeill, the Nato commander,” he told The Times.
“We were about 15 rounds into the gun salute and Karzai was on the viewing stand when I saw to the left puffs of smoke and then the crackle of small-arms fire. Then the presidential ceremonial guard, who were unarmed, got to the ground to take cover. Then I heard another loud explosion in the centre of the parade ground.
“Captain Jim Develley, my Royal Military Police guard, then frog-marched me out. The American Ambassador was doing the same. It was chaos, like a rugby scrum. We came across the American Ambassador's car first. We were bundled in and drove away,” he said.
The attackers fired Kalashnikov rifles and launched at least one rocket before they were overwhelmed by security forces.
Investigators were trying to determine last night how the assailants managed to infiltrate the parade and come within a few hundred yards of the entire Afghan leadership, as well as foreign dignitaries. Days before the ceremony, Kabul was in lockdown as security forces checked cars and sealed off roads in an attempt to prevent just such an attack.
Mr Karzai was rushed away from the scene by his US-trained bodyguards. He has survived several previous assasination attempts, including an ambush in 2002 when a guard opened fire on his car in the southern city of Kandahar. Two years later, two rockets were fired at his helicopter but missed.
Yesterday, the Afghan leader tried to calm public nerves by appearing on television to reassure the country that he was unhurt. Mr Karzai said: “Today, the enemies of Afghanistan, the enemies of Afghanistan's security and progress, tried to disrupt the ceremony and cause disorder and terror.
“Fortunately, Afghanistan's military forces surrounded them quickly and arrested some of the suspects.”
The attack represented a huge blow to the competence of Mr Karzai's security forces. Thousands of Western-trained police and soldiers were involved in yesterday's operation to secure Kabul, but failed to prevent the Taliban attackers gaining access to a derelict building near the parade ground.
The assault marked the second spectacular terrorist attack by the militant Islamic group this year in the capital. In January a suicide squad attacked the luxury Serena Hotel in Kabul.
The battle for hearts and minds has been lost, too. A statement from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) best reflects the sentiments of Afghan people: After seven years, there is no peace, human rights, democracy or reconstruction in Afghanistan. The destitution and suffering of our people is increasing everyday. ...We believe that if the troops leave Afghanistan, our people will become more free and come out of their current puzzlement and doubts...Afghanistan’s freedom can only be achieved by Afghan people themselves. Relying on one enemy to defeat another is a wrong policy which has just tightened the grip of the Northern Alliance and their masters on the neck of our nation." (RAWA www.rawa.org)
OpEdNews, April 29, 2008
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for yesterday's incident, said that the assault proved that their forces could operate anywhere in Afghanistan, even the capital. Zabi Hullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said: “Three of our attackers have been killed, and three managed to escape. Small arms and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] were used in the attack.
“Afghan and Nato authorities this year repeatedly said that the Taliban were on the verge of annihilation ... now it has been proved to them that the Taliban not only have the ability to operate in the provinces, but even in Kabul. Karzai and his Cabinet cannot be safe from Taliban attacks.”
The attack provided a reminder to the West about the vulnerability of its protégé. Mr Karzai - who has come under criticism from Western officials for failing to push through vital reforms and tackle corruption - nevertheless remains the only viable pro-Western leader who still enjoys some credibility among all the country's various ethnic groups.
He is expected to seek re-election next year. For that, however, he will have to campaign to bolster his flagging popularity. Many Afghans criticise him for rarely leaving the safety of his heavily fortified presidential compound in Kabul. After yesterday's attack it would be more dangerous than ever for the President to appear at public events.
- American bodyguards foiled the first attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai, right, in 2002, when a guard at the Kandahar governor's mansion fired four rounds into his car at point-blank range
- Mr Karzai evaded an assassination attempt by rocket in September 2004 as he landed his helicopter at Gardez en route to a school opening
- Less than a month later, Ahmed Zia Massood, Mr Karzai's vice-presidential running-mate in the national election, escaped unharmed after his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in the north east
- Militants made a third attempt on President Karzai's life last June, firing rockets at him as he gave a speech in Ghazni province, a Taliban stronghold
- A suicide bomber killed Haji Pir Mohammed, the Deputy Governor of Helmand, and five others this year. The Taliban claimed responsibility
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