Karzai escapes assassination attempt, at least one dead (Fourth Lead)

April 27th, 2008 - 4:31 pm ICT by admin  

Kabul, April 27 (DPA) Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped an apparent attack Sunday against his life at a ceremony to mark the victory of the mujahideen over Soviet occupation, but gunfire left at least one person dead and 11 people wounded. “He (Karzai) is safe,” an official from the presidential palace said.

A Taliban spokesman said six of their fighters armed with assault rifles opened fire during a ceremony, which was attended by Karzai and his cabinet ministers.

“Six of our mujahideen attacked the ceremony and in the shootout three of them were martyred and the other three after the attack fled the area and are in a safe place,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told DPA on telephone.

There was no official confirmation of the Taliban dead.

Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said one person was killed and 11 people were wounded in the attack.

Azimi did not identify the victims, but a security official who asked that his name be withheld told DPA that two Afghan lawmakers were among the wounded.

A live broadcast by Afghan state-run TV showed presidential bodyguards shielding the area around the stage where the president and his cabinet members were sitting.

In a brief speech on the national TV shortly after the incident, Karzai said the “enemies” wanted to “disrupt the ceremony of the 16th anniversary of the nation but they failed”.

The president said the law enforcing agencies had arrested “some suspects”. “All the rest is OK, and everything is on track,” he said and appealed for calm.

A Xinhua reporter saw the president leave the venue under the protection of his guards. The reporter said he saw blood spattered on the spot.

Several people were seen running from the spot. After the gunshots, Afghan soldiers rushed to take on the attackers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told Xinhua on telephone from an unknown location that his group was responsible for the incident.

He said their purpose was to disrupt the ceremony for which the government had been beefing up security for two months.

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