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Afghanistan: Vice President Of Transitional Authority Assassinated

Kabul, 8 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- One of the most powerful officials in Afghanistan's Transitional Authority, Vice President and Minister of Public Works Haji Abdul Qadir, was assassinated on 6 July as he was leaving his office in Kabul.

Qadir was shot dead by two men firing Kalashnikov assault rifles just outside of the front gate of the Ministry of Public Works. The men opened fire just as Qadir was leaving the ministry in his car. A man who served as his driver also reportedly was killed and at least one guard at the ministry gate was injured.

Witnesses say the attackers escaped in the most commonly seen type of car in Kabul -- a yellow and white Toyota.

Ten security guards who were posted outside of the ministry gate have been detained by authorities for questioning. They are accused of failing to do their job properly.

Our correspondent says blood and bullet holes could be seen in Qadir's vehicle and fresh bullet holes also marked a wall near the ministry gate.

The killing comes less than three weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai named his Transitional Authority cabinet. It is the second assassination of a government minister this year.

Qadir was one of the few ethnic Pashtuns who had worked against the Taliban regime as a member of the former Northern Alliance. He held the post of public works minister and had been the governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangahar.

Tensions were high in the Afghan capital after the killing. Karzai called an emergency session of his cabinet and Ministry of Interior police throughout the city have been put on emergency alert. Checkpoints have been set up at intersections across Kabul and roads leading to the site of the killing have been closed.

Qadir was a controversial figure in the Transitional Authority. Qadir had been overseeing the interim government's program, begun earlier this year, to eradicate poppy crops and curtail opium production.

But in recent days he had angered some of his allies in eastern Afghanistan by proposing an increase in customs taxes at the Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- a crossing that sits at the mouth of the legendary Kyber Pass. The crossing is known by international drug control officials as a major export route for Afghan-produced opium and heroin.

Qadir was seen as a potential unifying figure in the country -- an official whose politics transcended the ethnic divisions between ethnic Pashtuns in the south and east of the country and the ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir Valley in the north who control many key ministry posts in the government.

Some officials in the Ministry of Interior are suggesting that the killing may have been carried out by members of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

But analysts in Kabul also say the killing may have been orchestrated by business interests in Nangahar Province involved in opium and heroin smuggling.

Many ethnic Pashtuns in Kabul today expressed anger at the killing. They said that the ethnic balance in the cabinet created by Karzai during the Loya Jirga has been disrupted.