Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:03 UK

'Bullets, smoke and gunpowder'

Troops in ceremonial dress take cover after the shots
The attack caught thousands of troops unawares

Witnesses to the dramatic attack on Afghanistan's biggest annual military parade by suspected Taleban militants have been describing the chaos and confusion around them as shots were fired on a crowd of dignitaries including President Hamid Karzai.

Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie, who was standing metres away from the president, described how guards escorted him away from the scene as black smoke and a smell of gunpowder filled the air.

UK ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles heard crackles of gunfire before being led to safety by his bodyguard.

At least one person died and 11 were injured in the attack, which coincided with the 16th anniversary of the capture of Kabul by the mujahideen from the Soviet-backed government.

'Rocket-propelled grenade'

Mr Fatimie was part of a group of cabinet ministers, military commanders, MPs and foreign dignitaries watching the parade.

"As soon as the first bullets hit, the president was covered by bodyguards," he told AFP news agency.

"He was escorted out. I could see bullets ricocheting, black smoke, and I could smell gunpowder.

"At first I couldn't, actually no-one could, figure out what had happened. The security guards told everyone to lie down and we did."

Mr Fatimie saw what he thought was a rocket-propelled grenade explode in front of the stage.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, standing in the front row of dignitaries, gave his version of events.

"It was coming to the end of the 21-gun salute. I saw an explosion and a puff of dust to the left of the parade and then heard the crackle of small arms fire from all directions," he told Reuters news agency.

"After some hesitation my bodyguard frog-marched me away."

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