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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Threats close Kabul's Irish bar
The Irish Club, Kabul (image: kabulguide)
Several thousand expatriates are now based in Kabul
Terrorism alerts have prompted the owners of Kabul's only bar to close down temporarily.

The Irish Club has been a roaring success with correspondents reporting hundreds of drinkers inside at a time since it opened on Ireland's national holiday, St Patrick's Day (17 March).

But the popularity of the bar, which is open only to foreigners in the predominately Muslim state, appears to have attracted the interest of terrorists, United Nations staff in the city said.

"On a Thursday night [the end of the working week in Kabul] you can have up to 200 people there and if someone were to bomb it, they could wipe out the entire international community in one night," one UN official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters news agency.

IRISH BARS
The Irish Club, Kabul (image: kabulguide)
Hundreds exist outside the British Isles with more than 1,000 in the US alone, thriving on their reputation for conviviality
Many are theme pubs, sponsored by Irish breweries
Muslim states such as Egypt, the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey also have Irish bars
David Porter, a British partner in the bar, confirmed there had been warnings of a possible attack.

"We had a security warning for all places where foreigners gather, so we closed temporarily," he said on Saturday.

"We have to take people's safety into consideration."

Owners of the bar hope it will reopen next week, but its clientele is set to shrink after the UN banned its staff from going there for security reasons and other foreign aid organisations and diplomatic missions have issued warnings to their personnel.

"It's been placed off limits indefinitely after warnings that it could be the target of a terror attack," said UN spokesman David Singh.

Attacks on foreigners in Afghanistan have mainly been directed at US troops but an El Salvadorean aid worker and an Italian tourist were killed by suspected militants in March.

Tacit approval

Mr Porter has been philosophical about the closure, describing it as "all part and parcel of being in Kabul at this time" and saying the establishment can undergo renovations while its doors are shut.

The anonymous official who spoke to Reuters said the UN mission was also concerned that the very existence of a bar in Kabul was "culturally insensitive" in a country where alcohol is frowned upon and banned to Muslims for religious reasons.

However, even the Islamic fundamentalist Taleban regime, ousted in 2001, allowed foreign aid workers to drink alcohol in clubs in closed compounds.

One local Afghan newspaper recently carried a light-hearted report about the Irish Club, comparing foreigners' need of alcohol to post-war Afghans' need of electricity.

"Even foreigners suffer power shortages!" ran a caption under a photo of foreigners drinking at the bar.

While the bar is closed, expatriates wanting a night out have the option of going to one of the new restaurants - Thai, Indian and Chinese - which have recently sprung up to cater for them.




SEE ALSO:
Cable TV returns to Kabul
22 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Computer first for Afghan women
08 Apr 03  |  Education
Amorous advances in Afghanistan
27 Apr 02  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Afghanistan
28 Feb 03  |  Country profiles


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