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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 09:43 GMT
Afghan murder suspects rounded up
Afghan policeman at Kabul airport
There are continuing concerns over security in Kabul
Saudi Arabia has agreed to hand over three Afghans accused of murdering Kabul's Civil Aviation Minister, Abdul Rahman, following the arrest of seven others on Afghan soil.

Interim leader Hamid Karzai asked for the return of the three, who are suspected of boarding a Hajj pilgrimage flight after the killing.

A burial service for Mr Rahman, who was killed at Kabul airport on Thursday, is under way in the Afghan capital.

Suspects include:
General Abdullah Jan Tawhidi - head of intelligence services' political office
General Kalandar Beg - deputy defence minister for technical affairs
Saranwal Alim - justice ministry official
Questions are being asked in Kabul as to how the minister could have been held for several hours at the airport and beaten to death without the intervention of Afghan security forces or the UK-led international peacekeeping force.

All 10 suspects - who include three senior government officials - appear to be members of an Afghan Northern Alliance faction led by Ahmed Shah Masood, who was assassinated last year.

Mr Rahman once belonged to this group before breaking away to ally himself with the former king of Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai said Mr Rahman had had a long-running personal feud with the officials, who had worked in the intelligence, defence and justice ministries.

The attack was initially blamed on pilgrims on their way to Mecca who were angered by long delays to their flights.

Kabul sports stadium
Fans without tickets tried to force their way in to the Kabul sports stadium
There was more trouble in Kabul on Friday when Afghan police fired shots into the air as a huge crowd tried to force its way into a football match between a local side and the international security force.

Those incidents will add to concerns about security in Afghanistan, which is trying to recover from decades of internecine conflict.

'Personal vendetta'

Referring to Rahman's killing, Information Minister Raheen Makhdoom said on Friday: "This tragic incident was the result of a personal vendetta and private hostilities of a group of people. It has no political roots."

Afghan Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman
Rahman had hoped to make Afghanistan a tourist destination

The wanted men were reported to include General Abdullah Jan Tawhidi, in charge of Afghanistan's intelligence service department, and General Kalandar Beg, a deputy in the defence ministry.

The BBC's Kate Clark says that the three most senior suspects all come from the Panjshir Valley and from the armed faction Jamiat-e-Islami, part of the victorious Northern Alliance which entered Kabul after the Taleban fled.

Most people working in the security services are commanders or fighters from this faction.

The 10 suspects appear to have believed that they could act with impunity, as no member of the Afghan security forces intervened.

International peacekeepers based at the airport, meanwhile, said they received no request for assistance.

The killing came as UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, visiting Kabul, said he thought a six-month United Nations Security Council mandate for international peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan would be extended.

The BBC's Kate Clark
'He was held for over three hours'
Shashi Tharoor, special adviser to UN Sec General
underlines the need for Afghanistan to establish security forces
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Some say the whole administration could unravel over this"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Crowd trouble mars Kabul football match
15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Kabul goes football crazy
15 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Straw caution on more troops
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