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Archive for Sunday, April 7, 2002

Rockets fired at peacekeepers’ compound in Kabul; no injuries

April 7, 2002

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— Assailants fired two rockets Sunday at an international peacekeepers' camp, one of them exploded just meters (yards) from the complex, a spokesman for the security force said.

Nobody was hurt in the attack on the camp housing German and Danish troops, which occurred just after 2:30 a.m. local time, said Flight Lt. Tony Marshall, a spokesman for the British-led International Security Assistance Force peacekeepers.

He said the attack was likely linked to efforts to destabilize the interim Afghan administration ahead of the loya jirga, a national grand council which meets in June to select a new government.

Afghan authorities last week arrested at least 160 people on suspicion they were trying to destabilize the government and plot attacks against interim leader Hamid Karzai and the exiled former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, whose homecoming is expected later this month.

"Our initial assessment is that rather than a group wishing to target ISAF in its own right, that perhaps this is in some way linked to the current situation in Kabul," Marshall said. "We believe that there is a link with this particular attack."

Marshall would not say what evidence led peacekeepers to believe there was a connection between the attack and the arrests.

Those still in custody from last week are linked to a hard-line Islamic group, Hezb-e-Islami, headed by former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, officials said. A spokesman for that group denied it was connected with the alleged plot.

Marshall said a 107mm Chinese-made rocket flew over the peacekeeping compound and exploded just to the northwest. Another rocket was also seen flying over the compound and an explosion was heard, but peacekeepers had not located the detonation site, he said. Peacekeepers were searching the area for evidence and to try to find where the rockets were fired from.

The German Defense Ministry said it did not believe the rockets were actually intended to hit the camp.

It was the second incident at the compound, located outside of central Kabul along the main road leading from the capital to the eastern city of Jalalabad, in just over a week.

On Mar. 28, the compound was partially evacuated after a suspicious package was found outside one of the gates The package was blown up as a precaution but turned out to contain only bricks. At the time, Marshall said peacekeepers were concerned the incident might have been intended to test the international forces' reaction.

The 18-nation, 4,500-member force is responsible for maintaining security in the capital, Kabul. There have been several shooting incidents directed at peacekeepers in recent weeks, but no injuries. Previously, peacekeepers had said they believed disgruntled and unpaid northern alliance soldiers or common criminals were behind some of the attacks.\

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