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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Double attack raises Afghanistan fears
US soldier in Kandahar
One of President Karzai's American bodyguards

The authorities in Afghanistan are investigating two violent incidents which rocked the country on Thursday.

First there was a car bomb explosion in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul, with heavy casualties - then the attempted assassination of the head of the country's transitional administration, Hamid Karzai.


This is the tactic of a very experienced terrorist organisation

Rohan Gunaratna
Terrorism expert
Some experts on terrorism say the fact that the two incidents occurred in one day suggests that they could be part of a concerted attempt to undermine Mr Karzai's administration and spread fear and panic in the country.

Security in Afghanistan is certainly deteriorating.

Recent weeks have seen a string of minor explosions in Kabul.

Attacks against American special forces operating in largely Pashtun areas of the south and south-east have been on the rise.

Now, within a matter of hours, there has been the most serious explosion in Kabul since the fall of the Taleban last November and the most serious attempt to date on the life of Mr Karzai.

Bin Laden blamed

So who is behind such events?

Given Afghanistan's history of violence and instability, there is no shortage of possible suspects, including disgruntled individuals or commanders or warlords excluded from the current power structure in Kabul.

A relative of a victim of the Kabul bomb
A relative carries away a victim of the Kabul bomb
But some Afghan officials already seem to be blaming Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, author of a recent book on al-Qaeda, says he believes not only that the two violent incidents are linked, but that al-Qaeda members are the prime suspects.

"Al-Qaeda specialises in conducting co-ordinated simultaneous attacks and this is one such instance.

"Even if you look at the explosion of the car bomb, there has been a primary device and secondary device. This is the tactic of a very experienced terrorist organisation like al-Qaeda.

"There isn't any other such organisation operating inside Afghanistan."

Fear and panic

If it did prove to be al-Qaeda - or an organisation with links to it - what would be the aim of such attacks?

"The car bomb in Kabul is definitely aimed at causing fear and panic, disrupting the civil administration and also sending a signal that al-Qaeda and the Taleban have not been destroyed," says Dr Gunaratna.

"It is also sending a signal to the people supporting the Karzai administration that they are not safe."

But as yet there is no firm evidence to link al-Qaeda, or any other group or individual - to these attacks.

And a full investigation is likely to take some time.


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