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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 04:16 GMT
UK troops fired on in Kabul
2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment
The paratroopers were uninjured
An investigation has begun after UK peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan were shot at for the first time.

An unidentified gunman opened fire on an observation post in Kabul manned by British paratroopers early on Saturday, said International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) chief of staff Col Richard Barrons.

It is the first incident we have had of this nature

Lieutenant Colonel Neal Peckham
Six troops from the 2nd battalion of the parachute regiment returned fire as the gunman fled in a vehicle. They were uninjured.

ISAF troops returned in daylight to find a car riddled with bullets. In a nearby building they discovered one dead Afghan man and four injured people.

The incidents come hours after British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw left Kabul, following talks with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai on the possibility of extending the ISAF's UN Security Council mandate.

They also coincided with the funeral of murdered Afghan civil aviation minister Abdul Rahman. He was beaten to death at Kabul airport on Thursday.

Security implications

The head of the interim administration, Hamid Karzai, told hundreds of mourners that Afghans must stop killing one another and move instead towards peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Neal Peckham told the BBC that a full investigation was under way, led by the interim government's police force and with the support of the multi-national ISAF police force.

He said: "It is the first incident we have had of this nature.

"Clearly we will review both incident and the implications for our security posture in conjunction with the interim administration."

British troops jogging near their Kabul barracks
Ordinary Afghans prefer to see foreign troops

He said he had no idea at this stage who was firing or why.

"The threat level will be reviewed and obviously if we need to change our posture we will do so."

The six British paratroopers have now been removed from their post.

A group of Afghan civilians have also alleged that they were shot at in the early hours of Saturday near a peacekeepers' post in Kabul as they were trying to drive a pregnant woman to the hospital.

A 19-year-old man was reportedly killed.

'No connection'

It is not clear if the two incidents were linked, or if the two posts were the same.

Colonel Peckham said he believed that there was no immediate connection between the incidents and the murder of Mr Rahman.

He said the incident at the airport happened on the civilian side which was the responsibility of the interim administration's police force.

"The matter of the minister of aviation we were not aware of. We were not in view of the area of the reported incident and at no stage were we asked by the interim administration to intervene."

Seven people have been arrested following the killing and three are to be returned to Afghanistan by Saudi Arabia.

Among the 10 suspects are three senior government officials.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"There are serious questions now whether the government can deliver security"
The BBC's Michael Voss
"An afghan family claim that they were shot at"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Straw caution on more troops
31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK cool on extra Afghan troops
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges support for Afghanistan
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Farewell to murdered Afghan minister
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