KABUL: Taliban guerrillas made a failed attempt to kill Afghan President Hamid Karzai with a rocket attack on 10 June, narrowly missing a building where he was giving a speech, Taliban and the government said.
Rockets fell several hundred meters from the government building southwest of Kabul and some of the audience began to flee, but Karzai urged them to stay and finished his speech, a government official and a witness told Reuters.
“Terrorists and enemies of Afghanistan fired three rockets towards the speech venue of Hamid Karzai and the firing of the rockets did not cause any interruption in the program of the president...,” the palace said in a statement after Karzai concluded his trip.
No one was hurt and Karzai, who has already survived two assassination attempts in recent years, was whisked away after his speech under heavy security, a witness said.
Several helicopters operated by Western forces, part of Karzai’s security arrangement, were hovering above the site of the meeting at the time of the strike, he added.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, said the Taliban knew that Karzai would be attending the meeting in Andar district of Ghazni province and they fired 12 rockets.
Karzai has been leading Afghanistan since the Taliban’s removal from power by US-led forces in 2001, but his critics call him “mayor of Kabul” because they feel his power does not extend beyond the capital, which is fortified by foreign troops.
The government official said the president’s visit to Ghazni was a routine provincial trip, though the area has seen repeated recent clashes between Taliban and Western and Afghan troops.
Karzai usually travels under tight security by his US-trained Afghan bodyguards and foreign forces.
Conflict has been worsening in Afghanistan, with more than 5,000 people killed in the past 17 months, the bloodiest violence since the Taliban’s ouster.