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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Three held after attack on Karzai
President Hamid Karzai
President Karzai reportedly wanted to continue his visit
Afghan authorities have arrested three people following an attempt to shoot down President Hamid Karzai's helicopter on Thursday.

The three suspects were detained about 10km (six miles) from the scene of the attack near Gardez, in south-eastern Paktia province, officials said.

A rocket was fired but missed, causing no casualties.

President Karzai was making his first trip outside Kabul to support his bid for the presidency in 9 October polls.

Taleban fighters have vowed to disrupt the election process.

President Karzai immediately abandoned his trip.

Kandahar attack

Interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said the men were detained in the centre of Gardez after they tried to escape on motorcycles.

Police also found detonators and explosives, Mr Mashal said.

"They admitted during questioning that they carried out the attack," he said.

"They had documents and tools related to the rocket attack and were arrested by police with the help of villagers."

Paktia governor Haji Assadullah Wafa said: "It's not written on their foreheads that they are [Taleban] but their beards and clothes are like [Taleban]."

The US military confirmed a rocket was fired at the president's helicopter as it tried to land.

"The rocket missed the helicopter and impacted approximately 300 metres away from a school near the landing zone," the US military said in a statement.

"The aircraft did not land and flew immediately back to Kabul. The president was not in any imminent danger."

The president was reportedly critical of the US military for not allowing him to continue to Gardez.

The attack was the most serious attempt on his life since an attack on his convoy in the southern city of Kandahar two years ago.

President Karzai has rarely been seen outside his heavily-fortified presidential compound since then.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says that Paktia province has been an area of frequent attacks by suspected Taleban militants.

Critics say the president has little control of events beyond Kabul.

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