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Anti-Pakistan protesters raid embassy in Afghanistan's capital

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A mob stormed the Pakistani Embassy on Tuesday, ransacking the building and smashing windows as diplomats took cover in the basement, during a protest against clashes along the two nations' border.

Pakistan Ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand closed the embassy and accused the Afghan government of inciting the attack and failing to protect the diplomatic post.

"Where was the Afghan government? Where were the security forces?" Mohmand said in a room littered with glass. "Efforts should have been made to protect us, to protect the mission."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed regret for the attack and promised to telephone Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to apologize. He told a news conference that his government would compensate Pakistan for the damage.

"Whoever did this was not only the enemy of Pakistan, they were the enemy of Afghanistan and the enemy of our mutual friendship," Karzai said.

The attack on the embassy came during a second day of protests in Kabul over the border frictions. Pakistani and Afghan officials have reported armed clashes along the border, but few details have emerged. Pakistan has said it deployed troops near the border to hunt Taliban or al-Qaida fugitives. The two countries' rugged and mountainous border is poorly marked in many places.

Pakistani diplomats said a mob of 500 people came to the embassy with sticks and two trucks of rocks. One group broke down a rear wall with a sledgehammer, while another broke through the main gate. A witness said there were only about 200 protesters.

Mohmand said most of the Afghan guards fled the embassy, while some appeared to be guiding the mob around the building during at least 20 minutes of chaos, the ambassador said.

Diplomats uninjured

No diplomats were hurt as the mob went room to room, smashing windows, tables and computers, he said.

Pakistan issued a statement accusing the Afghan security force of allowing the mob to enter the embassy and destroy equipment and vehicles. But later Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri issued a conciliatory statement.

"Pakistan's desire to maintain friendly relations with Afghanistan remains unimpaired," Kasuri said. "The president and other Pakistani leaders believe that a stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's own interest."

Kabul police chief Basir Salangi said security forces hadn't known about the embassy protest in advance and were only aware of a peaceful anti-Pakistan demonstration in another part of Kabul involving about 2,000 protesters.

"It's not our fault," Salangi said of the embassy attack. "When we heard about it, we sent 100 police to the embassy."

Salangi said no arrests were made and two police were injured trying to disperse the crowd. Fawad, the witness, said several demonstrators were also injured.

Mohmand said that a recent speech by Karzai criticizing Pakistan for incursions into Afghanistan incited people.

"We hold the Afghan government squarely responsible, not only for negligence but for stage-managing this show," Mohmand said.

The embassy would remain closed until the Afghan government apologized for the attack, compensates for damages and guarantees the safety of diplomatic staff, he said.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been strained since the Northern Alliance, took control of Kabul in November 2001 after a U.S.-led bombing campaign defeated the Taliban.

Pakistan was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban, and while Islamabad later dropped its support for the Islamic hard-liners, the Northern Alliance is still deeply suspicious of it.


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