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Latest update : 2009-07-26

One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's vice presidential running mates in next month's elections escaped unhurt from an ambush by Taliban insurgents on Sunday. No-one was hurt in the attack.

AFP - A controversial running mate of President Hamid Karzai escaped unscathed after a gun and rocket attack hit his convoy Sunday in northern Afghanistan, weeks ahead of the elections, officials said.
Dozens of vehicles accompanying vice-presidential candidate Mohammed Qasim Fahim were driving through Kunduz province -- which has seen soaring Taliban-linked attacks -- when an unknown number of gunmen ambushed the convoy.
Karzai's campaign office labelled the attack an assassination attempt, and said the campaign cameraman was injured as a hail of bullets hit the motorcade. Security and government officials said no one was hurt.
The attack comes ahead of Afghanistan's second-ever presidential elections on August 20, in which Karzai hopes to win a second term, and as fears grow that spiralling violence will keep voters away from the polls.
"They fired a couple of rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. I don't think the rockets reached the vehicles," said Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar, adding that the attackers fired from the opposite side of a river.
"No one, thank God, was hurt."
Officials said up to 50 vehicles were travelling in the convoy to neighbouring Takhar province after a campaign event in Kunduz.
"Some people fired two or more rockets and machine guns. No vehicle was hit. They continued their trip to Takhar," said Kunduz police chief Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, adding that he also had no reports of injuries.
But Waheed Omar, spokesman for the Karzai campaign, said it was a fierce attack in Kunduz, where officials say security is deteriorating as Taliban militants try to disrupt supply routes for foreign troops stationed there.
"It was an assassination attempt, it was a real fight. Marshal Fahim's vehicle was hit by bullets but as it was armoured nothing happen to him. Our cameraman was wounded," he told AFP.
"Possibly they were Taliban but we cannot confirm it," he added.
Fahim was military commander of the Northern Alliance that joined with US-led troops to oust the militant Islamist Taliban regime in 2001, but is a controversial choice of running mate for the election.
The stocky former anti-Soviet commander has been accused by Human Rights Watch as well as Afghan and other international critics of abuses including murder and corruption during Afghanistan's nearly three decades of war.
Fahim was appointed defence minister in Karzai's first post-Taliban administration, when he also served as vice president, but was dropped when Karzai won the 2004 election, reportedly under pressure from Western allies.
He is an ethnic Tajik and Karzai may be hoping he will bring with him votes from his ethnic group, the second largest in Afghanistan after Karzai's Pashtun community.
Karzai defended his choice last month, saying he picked Fahim to help bring unity to Afghanistan, currently in the grip of a rebellion by Taliban militants which has worsened year-by-year since 2001.
Karzai is among 41 candidates in the presidential elections, and he is favourite to win despite his failure to rein in the Taliban-led insurgency and rampant corruption in the impoverished nation.
The election comes with Afghanistan gripped by the deadliest violence since the Taliban rose up against Karzai's government.
About 90,000 Western troops are deployed in the country to help quell unrest but July has seen the highest foreign military casualties since the invasion, with 67 troops killed this month alone.


Date created : 2009-07-26