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Rocket fired at security camp

©Associated Press
April 8, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Chinese-made rocket exploded just yards from a camp housing international peacekeepers Sunday, the first such attack since security forces began patrolling the Afghan capital last year.

Elsewhere, a U.N. team sent to the central city of Bamiyan found evidence of three mass graves apparently filled with ethnic Hazaras killed last year in the Taliban's final month in power.

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

A 107-mm Chinese-made rocket flew over the peacekeeping compound and exploded to the northwest, Marshall said. Another rocket also was seen flying over the compound and an explosion was heard, but peacekeepers had not found the detonation site, he said.

Peacekeepers were searching the area for evidence and were trying to determine where the rockets were fired from.

The attack probably was linked to efforts to destabilize the interim Afghan administration ahead of the loya jirga, a national grand council meeting in June to select a new government, Marshall said.

Afghan authorities last week arrested at least 160 people on suspicion of trying to destabilize the government and plot attacks against interim leader Hamid Karzai and the exiled former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, whose homecoming is expected 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 earlier arrests.

Those in custody from last week are linked to a hardline 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 plot.

On March 28, the compound was partially evacuated after a suspicious package was found outside a gate. The package was detonated as a precaution but turned out to contain only bricks.

The German Defense Ministry said it did not believe the rockets fired Sunday were intended to hit the camp. The 18-nation, 4,500-member force is responsible for maintaining security in Kabul.

It was the first time peacekeepers were subject to rocket fire, though there have been several shooting incidents in recent weeks. Nobody has been hurt.

Previously, peacekeepers said they believed disgruntled and unpaid Northern Alliance soldiers or criminals were behind some of the attacks.

In Bamiyan, the U.N. team visited the mass graves and spoke with local leaders Sunday before returning to Kabul, spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said. There was no information on the number of people buried or the exact circumstances of their deaths, but they apparently were killed just before the fall of the Taliban, he said.

"Representatives of the Hazara community in Bamiyan believe that the graves contain bodies of members of their community killed . . . approximately one month before the fall of the Taliban," he said.

There long have been reports of Taliban repression directed against Hazaras, who comprise about 10 percent of Afghanistan's population. The Hazaras are followers of Islam's Shia branch, which is dominant in neighboring Iran and a few other places but rivals the Sunni branch to which most of the Taliban belonged.

Hazara leaders claim as many as 15,000 of their people were killed in a religiously motivated slaughter orchestrated by the Taliban in many parts of the country.

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