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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Karzai survives attempt on his life
Hamid Karzai in Kandahar
Karzai in Kandahar, just before the attempt on his life
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has survived an assassination attempt in the southern city of Kandahar by a suspected member of the Taleban.

An Afghan man in uniform fired four rounds into his car, wounding the Kandahar governor and a bodyguard.

I'm fine. I expect things like this to happen

Hamid Karzai
American soldiers guarding the president fired back. The attacker and an Afghan bodyguard were killed in the incident.

The attack came only hours after a suspected car bomb exploded in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least 10 people including three policemen, the authorities say.

'Sprayed with bullets'

Mr Karzai was in his vehicle in a heavily protected convoy, leaving the guesthouse of the Kandahar governor in the heart of the city.

Huge crowds had gathered to welcome him back to his home town where he was due to attend his brother's wedding.

Afghanistan instability
August: At least 15 people die in gun battle near Kabul
July: Attempt to blow up government ministers foiled.
July: Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadir shot dead
April: 160 suspected coup-plotters arrested
As he waved to them, a young Afghan boy approached him. The president leaned from his window to exchange traditional greetings.

Moments later the would-be assassin moved in, shooting four times into the president's vehicle.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet, who was in a nearby vehicle, says one of the bullets flew passed Mr Karzai's ear and hit the Kandahar Governor, Gul Agha Sherzai.

The governor received head injuries but is not in danger.

Two bullets pierced windows in the car.

Our correspondent says she heard the burst of gunfire as the president's American bodyguards leapt from their jeep and opened fire with M-16 assault rifles, killing the gunman.

The American bodyguards have been giving Mr Karzai 24-hour-a-day protection since one of his vice-presidents, Haji Abdul Qadir, was shot dead in broad daylight in Kabul last July.

US soldiers in Kandahar
US bodyguards move to make the area safe

The president then returned to the governor's guesthouse, where he is staying.

Shortly afterwards, he told our correspondent he was safe.

"I'm fine. I expect things like this to happen," he said.

The attacker has been identified as Abdul Rahman, from the Kajaki area of Helman province, which the president described as a "heavily Taleban" area of southern Afghanistan.

The BBC has learned that Rahman joined the security forces of Kandahar governor only 17 days ago as a policeman.

US President George W Bush expressed his relief at Mr Karzai's escape.

Mr Bush "is looking forward to meeting President Karzai in New York," a White House spokeswoman said.

Crowded streets

News of the assassination attempt came as officials in Kabul were still trying to establish how many people had been killed in a bomb attack in the city's main business area.

Blast victim
It is not clear who the Kabul bomb was aimed at
Dozens of people were injured in the blast, which happened at 1455 local time (1025 GMT), close to a market crowded with shoppers buying provisions for the Muslim holy day.

The BBC's Kylie Morris in Kabul says there have been many reports of security forces foiling attempts to plant bombs in the area in the past few days.

Police say they suspect it was the work of either the al-Qaeda network or the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has demanded the removal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

There have been several bomb blasts in and around Kabul in the past two months, but this was by far the most powerful.

Target unclear

Correspondents described a scene of blood and mayhem with overturned cars in the middle of the road.

Soldier inspecting the bomb damage
Soldiers checked for more bombs

It is not clear what the intended target was.

Witnesses said there were two blasts, the first drawing people close to the scene of the second, larger explosion.

"There were two explosions. The first was not so big but the second was very large," said eyewitness Najibullah Aryan.

Thousands of people fled the area in panic.

Earlier this week, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Mujahideen leader, called for a holy war to drive US troops out of Afghanistan.

And last week the head of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) warned of the danger of attacks from al-Qaeda and the Taleban who were driven out of Kabul last year.

The BBC's Kylie Morris reports from Kabul
"He narrowly escaped with his life"
The BBC's Lyse Doucet reports from Kandahar
"The American bodyguards sprayed the gunman with bullets"


Political uncertainty






See also:

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