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Two Norwegian peacekeepers wounded north of Afghan capital

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two Norwegian peacekeepers were shot and wounded north of the capital Tuesday by a renegade Afghan soldier, an Afghan commander in the area said.

The peacekeepers were traveling between Kabul and Bagram -- where U.S. and coalition forces have their main base -- when shots were fired at their vehicle shortly after noon, said Lt. Col. Thomas Lobbering, a spokesman for the 5,000-strong multinational force.

Afghan forces in the area -- about 12 miles north of Kabul -- said the gunman was identified by a fellow soldier who witnessed the shooting.

"It was an Afghan soldier. He was crying and he just opened fire and ran away," said Nanga Elai, an officer in the Afghan army's 591st Battalion.

Battalion commander Amanullah Gujar identified the suspect as Mohammed Ibrahim and said he had a head wound. He was arrested within hours of the shooting and taken to a garrison in Kabul for questioning, Gujar said.

The motive for the attack remains unknown.

Afghan forces had warned peacekeepers that area was dangerous after receiving information from the government that Taliban loyalists had infiltrated their ranks north of Kabul, Gujar said.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry confirmed that both peacekeepers were Norwegian, but declined to release their names or ages.

"One is seriously injured and the other has minor injuries. Both are at a German field hospital. They are considering whether to send the seriously injured one to a hospital in Germany," Foreign Ministry spokesman Eirik Bergesen said.

The victims were part of a civilian-military team helping rebuild a school in the area, said Lt. Col. Dietmar Jeserich of the German military's Foreign Operations Command.

Germany and the Netherlands took charge of the 29-nation peacekeeping force in Kabul on Feb. 10, replacing Turkey.

In a separate incident in a suburb of northern Kabul, one person was injured when an unidentified man threw a grenade into a crowded street market, Police Chief Basir Salangi said. The motive was not immediately known.

There have been several attacks on international workers in Afghanistan in recent months. The attacks have been blamed on Taliban remnants and their allies, who have warned foreigners to leave Afghanistan.

On March 30, attackers fired a rocket at the Kabul headquarters of the multinational force, known as ISAF. The explosion caused no injuries and was blamed on supporters of renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is believed to have joined forces with Taliban remnants and al-Qaida fugitives.

On March 7, an explosive device set off by remote control in Kabul wounded one Dutch peacekeeper and killed an Afghan translator.

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Associated Press reporter Amir Shah contributed to this report.


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