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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Thousands honour slain Afghan hero
Supporters of the late Ahmed Shah Masood take to the streets of Kabul
Security was tight in Kabul after last week's car bombing
Thousands of Afghans have gathered in Kabul's main stadium to honour resistance leader Ahmed Shah Masood, who was assassinated by suspected al-Qaeda operatives one year ago.

An Afghan soldier guards the massive portrait of Masood
Masood: ''A real hero who loved his country and lost his life for his nation''
A massive portrait of Masood was unveiled as political leaders, soldiers and schoolchildren enjoyed a carnival atmosphere on Monday at a site better known for executions under the former Taleban regime.

Citizens clutched framed portraits of Masood or hung them from shop awnings and waved the red, black and green national flag, reintroduced after the fall of the Taleban.

The ceremony was attended by vice-presidents Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Nematullah Shahrani, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and Masood's brother Wali.

President Hamid Karzai is travelling to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Sealed off

Security was tight after last week's assassination attempt on Mr Karzai in Kandahar and a car bomb attack in the capital that left at least 26 dead.

A fighter wipes his windshield bearing a portrait of Masood in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan
The resistance leader was assassinated one year ago on Monday
Roads were sealed off around the stadium and helicopters from the International Security Assistance Force flew overhead.

Education Minister Younis Qanooni, a former aide to Masood, was due to deliver a keynote speech while Masood's 14-year-old son, Ahmad, was also expected to deliver a few words about his father.

Masood, 48, was blown up by suspected al-Qaeda members posing as journalists at his headquarters in the Panjshir Valley north of the capital, a year ago on Monday.

One student who attended the ceremony, Hamid Farhad, 16, said he and his classmates wanted to honour a man whose name was taboo at school during the Taleban years.

''We all knew Masood was a great personality even if we could not mention his name. He was a real hero who loved his country and lost his life for his nation.''

Prayer ceremony

Toor Pickai Harick, a teacher at Kabul's Aisha Durrani Girls' High School, said her students wanted to show their appreciation for a man who believed in women's rights.

Women were barred from public life under the Taleban and girls' schools were closed en masse.

''People respected him because he was fighting for freedom and the rights of women. Women have deep respect for him because of his efforts," Ms Harick said.

Prayers were later to be held at Masood's hilltop mausoleum, which overlooks his home village of Bazarak in the Panjshir Valley.


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