KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban militants fired rockets near President
Hamid Karzai in an apparent assassination attempt in central Afghanistan on
Sunday, but the missiles fell short and no one was hurt, officials and witnesses
The attack happened as clashes and
airstrikes in the country's south and northwest left 47 suspected militants and
two police dead.
President Hamid Karzai gestures at a news conference in Kabul May 17,
Karzai was giving a speech to the elders and residents of Andar district in
Ghazni province when rockets were fired nearby, said Ali Shah Ahmadzai,
provincial police chief.
Witnesses said they heard between four and six rockets, but the Taliban
claimed it fired off 12.
The rockets missed their target, and Karzai continued his speech, calling on
those gathered to remain calm, said Arif Yaqoubi, a local reporter attending the
Purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press that
Taliban militants were behind the attack.
"The Taliban knew that Karzai was coming to Andar district. When Karzai was
meeting with the people, the Taliban fired 12 rockets," Ahmadi said by satellite
phone from an undisclosed location. "The rockets fell nearby."
The Taliban watched the area for an hour after the attack as ambulances and
helicopters patrolled the area, Ahmadi said, adding that they did not know how
many people were wounded or killed.
An Afghan government official, who did not want to be named because he was
not authorized to speak on the incident, said no casualties were reported in the
Yaqoubi said six rockets were fired nearby as Karzai was telling people
gathered at a school yard in Andar about government projects to build roads and
"He briefly stopped his speech, and the people were concerned and worried,"
Yaqoubi said. "But then Karzai continued by saying, 'Calm down and don't
Khial Mohammad, a Ghazni lawmaker also at the event, said that during the
speech "we heard the sounds of rockets whizzing over our heads" before slamming
in the distance.
In northwestern Afghanistan, meanwhile, militants attacked three separate
posts Saturday in Murghab district of Badghis province, sparking a six-hour long
battle that left 20 suspected Taliban and two police killed, said provincial
police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Naizyar.
Police repelled the attack and sent reinforcements to the area, forcing the
militants to withdraw, Naizyar said.
There have been a number of attacks in the relatively peaceful north, but the
southern and eastern provinces are the hardest hit by the insurgency.