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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 14:35 GMT
Bomb alert at Afghan base
Royal Marines arrive in Afghanistan
Royal Marines have been patrolling Kabul
British peacekeeping troops were evacuated from a base in Afghanistan after a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspicious package.

The package, discovered on Thursday outside the gate of the base near Kabul, contained only bricks.

It is believed the incident may have been an attempt to test security procedures.

The base is called the Brigade Support Group (BSG) and houses about 1,800 troops from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Bulgaria.

A more sinister possibility is that it was a group who wished to test our security measures

Flt Lt Tony Marshall
ISAF

Security fears in Kabul heightened this week when peacekeepers said suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters had planned to kill them by setting off car bombs in six vehicles rigged with booby-traps.

There were also intelligence reports suggesting peacekeepers were at risk of being kidnapped.

Flight Lieutenant Tony Marshall, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said: "One possibility is that a local from the area decided he would have some fun hoaxing our troops.

"But a more sinister possibility is that it was a group who wished to test our security measures in dealing with a package of this type and to see how we reacted to it."

Alert

The package was found lying against a perimeter wall at 1800 local time (1330GMT).

Flt Lt Marshall added: "We immediately evacuated people from the area that was under threat.

"It is a very large compound so we were able to move them to a distance that was deemed safe.
British troops in Kabul
ISAF troops have generally been welcomed

"Fortunately the base is near a multinational explosive ordnance disposal facility and they were on hand in a little over an hour to carry out a controlled explosion.

"As a result of that we were able to examine the contents of the package and it was discovered that it contained a number of bricks that had been wrapped up."

The incident is the first of its kind to affect the 4,800-strong ISAF contingent since they were deployed in December.

Peacekeepers have been on alert for possible attacks by al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters since they arrived in Afghanistan to help the interim government.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | South Asia
Ten years on: Kabul's new face
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Emergency debate on troops move
21 Mar 02 | Business
Afghanistan's new economic start
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
Afghans celebrate women's day
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