Karzai turns to peacekeepers for help in finding killers

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- International peacekeepers agreed Monday to join the investigation into the weekend slaying of Vice President Abdul Qadir, as speculation mounted that the killing had more to do with vendettas and business deals than with plots to undermine the government.

Deadlocked in its probe, President Hamid Karzai's government on Monday asked the 19-nation International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, to help track down the killers.

The commander of the peacekeeping force, Turkish Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, said a joint task force would be formed, including representatives of his command and the Afghan ministries of justice and interior.

Gunmen hit and run

Qadir was shot dead along with a son-in-law Saturday as he was leaving his office in downtown Kabul. The two gunmen escaped.

Zorlu said ISAF has put its 5,000 troops in the capital on higher alert as a precaution against "such a terrible crime happening again."

Qadir, a guerrilla commander in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, was the most prominent ethnic Pashtun in the government after Karzai himself and also served as minister of public works and governor of Nangarhar, a relatively rich province along the Pakistan border and a center of commerce, smuggling and opium poppy growing.

No successor has been named for any of the three posts. However, elders of Nangarhar asked the government to appoint Qadir's elder brother, Din Mohammed, to all three positions.

Since the killers have not been identified, the impact of the assassination on the fragile Karzai government, which took office after last month's Afghan grand council or loya jirga, was unclear.

Speculation was growing Monday among diplomats and some Afghan officials that the killing could have been carried out by drug barons.

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