Archive for Monday, June 11, 2007

Afghan president escapes assassination attempt

June 11, 2007

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— Taliban militants trained a barrage of rockets on President Hamid Karzai on Sunday as he spoke with a group of elders in central Afghanistan, narrowly missing the Afghan leader.

A purported Taliban spokesman said militants planned the strike after learning in advance about Karzai's arrival - a sign of the group's rising capabilities after a winter lull in violence.

It was the third attempt on Karzai's life since he became president.

The Afghan leader did not flinch as the rockets landed about 200 yards away, said Arif Yaqoubi, a local reporter.

"Please sit down, sit down," Karzai told the gathering under a tent in a school yard, gesturing for them to be seated after the rockets landed with a thud. "Don't be scared. Nothing is happening."

Several bearded men seated in front of Karzai immediately broke out in applause.

Karzai finished his speech and his security detail whisked him off by helicopter to Kabul, witnesses and officials said. Provincial police chief Ali Shah Ahmadzai said no one was wounded in the attack in Ghazni, a central Afghan province with a strong Taliban presence.

Sunday's attack underscored the dangers faced by the U.S.-backed government of Karzai, who holds shaky sway over a country plagued by relentless Taliban-led violence that has killed about 2,200 people this year - many of them militants, according to an Associated Press tally of numbers reported by the U.S., NATO, U.N. and Afghan officials. Violence elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday left 66 people dead.

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