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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 08:25 GMT
Kabul mob kills Afghan minister
Afghan pilgrims boarding planes at Kabul airport
Planes were delayed and some failed to turn up
A mob of Afghan pilgrims has beaten to death a minister of the country's interim cabinet at Kabul airport.

Afghan government sources confirmed on Friday that Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman had died of his injuries.

A crowd of about 1,000 pilgrims, who were waiting to set off for the traditional Muslim Hajj, assaulted the minister on Thursday after rumours that he had cancelled a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Nobody was arrested after the incident and all the pilgrims finally left.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Kabul says the minister's bodyguards were unable to save him from the mob who had surrounded him and his plane.

'Failed intervention'

The attack shows the weakness of the fledgling Kabul police force in charge of the civil aviation side of the airport where it took place, our correspondent says.

Pilgrim waiting at Kabul airport
Some pilgrims had been waiting for two days
Troops of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), who are also deployed at the airport, tried to calm the situation, but could not save the minister.

Our correspondent says the pilgrims had waited for two days in freezing temperatures to board flights to the holy city of Mecca.

Tempers appear to have flared after two planes that were due to pick up the pilgrims were delayed.

It was not clear why Mr Rahman had gone to the airport - perhaps to pacify the crowd.


Reports suggest that the some of the pilgrims were enraged when a rumour spread that Mr Rahman was about to divert their plane to take his family to India.

For many Muslims the opportunity to go to Mecca to perform the Hajj is a highpoint in their life. Many of the pilgrims gathered at Kabul airport may have spent their life savings to finance their pilgrimage.

All able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the Hajj once in their life.

The interim administration, which took office in December, met late on Thursday at the presidential palace to discuss the attack.

The French news agency AFP says that early on Friday, despite a curfew in the rest of Kabul, dozens of pilgrims were still at the airport waving their tickets in their hands trying to talk to officials.

Extra troops were sent to the airport, while others patrolled the city in vans.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticus
"Tensions were rising as they had been at the airport for two days"
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Kabul
"It is unclear exactly what happened"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Straw in Kabul for troops talks
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