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Afghanistan: Western Leaders Reaffirm Support For Karzai

Washington, 6 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Western powers have reaffirmed their backing for President Hamid Karzai (pictured) in the wake of yesterday's assassination attempt on the leader of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the assassination attempt and a separate bomb blast that ripped through Kabul only reinforces the commitment of the United States to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and around the globe.

Powell said the violence shows there is more work to be done in Afghanistan by U.S. and allied forces to defeat the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban.

A White House spokesman said President George W. Bush was relieved to hear that Karzai had escaped unhurt from the assassination attempt in the city of Kandahar. Bush is due to meet with Karzai next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said they also were relieved that Karzai had survived the attack. Both men said the violence reinforces their determination to defeat terror in Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a message to Karzai expressing his shock over the assassination attempt.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is today back in Kabul, after the attempt yesterday during a visit to the southern city of Kandahar.

Karzai's U.S. Special Forces bodyguards shot and killed the gunman, who was reported to have been wearing a military uniform. Two other men were reported killed in the firing. Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai was reported slightly wounded, as was one of Karzai's American bodyguards.

Meanwhile, the International Security Assistance Force's spokesman, Commander Simon Ryan, today said that 26 people were killed and 150 injured in a car-bomb explosion in Kabul that took place shortly before the Karzai assassination attempt.

Ryan said that ISAF had implemented a "series of procedures" to try to reduce the risk of new attacks.