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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Afghan leader in graveside homage
Afghan leader at Ahmad Shah Massoud grave
Hamid Karzai (centre) pays his respects
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has travelled outside Kabul for the first time since surviving an attempt on his life.


We are here today because of what [Masood] did before he lost his life for Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai headed to the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, under extremely tight security to pay his respects at the tomb of assassinated resistance leader Ahmed Shah Masood.

Masood was assassinated a year ago, just two days before the attacks on the US on 11 September.

His killers are thought to have been sent by Osama bin Laden.

Dubbed the Lion of the Panjshir, he was one of the most famous resistance leaders who fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, and the last to hold out after the Taleban's conquest of most of Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Business as usual

Mr Karzai flew by Afghan military helicopter to the Panjshir Valley, and then by road up to Masood's white hilltop mausoleum.

Ahmed Shah Masood mausoleum
The tomb lies in the Panjshir Valley
The route was lined by children waving the Afghan national flag.

The decision to travel outside Kabul comes in the wake of a failed attempt by a gunman to kill Mr Karzai during a visit to Kandahar.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Kabul says the trip to the Panjshir is a demonstration that despite the assassination attempt, Mr Karzai will not stay confined to his presidential palace.

Masood remembered

Earlier, Mr Karzai attended a conference in Kabul dedicated to the memory of Masood.

He praised Masood's contribution to the struggle against the Taleban, saying that without him and even with the events of 11 September, "I do not know if we would have succeeded or not."

Ahmed Shah Masood
Masood was one of the most famous resistance leaders
Ahmed Shah Masood is regarded as a martyr by many in Afghanistan, with his photo plastered over cars and buses in the capital.

A big commemoration is planned in Kabul on Monday to mark the anniversary of his death.

He was the most powerful figure in the Northern Alliance, the Tajik-dominated coalition of resistance groups who helped to overthrow the Taleban last December.

Observers say their dominance in the new government is a source of resentment amongst ethnic Pashtuns.

Our correspondent says the fact that President Karzai - himself not a member of the Northern Alliance - is praying at the tomb of Masood is a clear sign of where the real power lies.

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The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes
"Heavily armed American special forces troops stood watch as the president was greeted"

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