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Mystery shrouds killing of 11 Chinese in Afghanistan
Updated: 2004-06-21 16:19

The reason behind a cold-blooded tragic incident that claimed the lives of 11 Chinese construction workers still remains a mystery as no group or individual has claimed responsibility for it.

On June 10 unknown terrorists shot dead the 11 workers and injured five others at their camp in northern Kunduz province.

Though Afghan officials blamed the attack on the remnants of fundamentalist Taliban movement, al-Qaeda and Islamic party led by Gulbudin Hakmatary, they failed to offer any proof for the accusation.

"The terrorist network of al-Qaeda and its supporters were behind the incident to disrupt the ongoing rebuilding process in the country," Afghan Vice President and Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim has said hours after the incident.

"We have arrested Abdul Rasoul Kochi, a former driver of Taliban militia and his colleague Mullah Toor," Kunduz police chief Mutalib Beg said one day after the bloody attack.

In a span of three days, the Afghan authorities took into custody 14 persons in connection with the case. However, they failed to extract any information from them.

"Noor Mohammad, a former member of Hekmatyar's Islamic party Hizb-e-Islami who later on joined the Taliban regime is among the suspected terrorists arrested in connection with murdering Chinese workers," Governor of Kunduz Mohammad Omar said.

Taliban immediately rejected the accusation as baseless, saying their fighters have nothing to do with the Chinese workers.

"Taliban are not involved in the murdering of Chinese workers as they were not working for the American goals or UN," Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi said.

Although this is not the first attack on foreign civilian workers in post-Taliban Afghanistan, these are the first casualties that China has ever suffered in the war-ravaged nation.

Around 40 employees of national and international agencies including locals and expatriates have been killed since late last year in terror attacks across the war-battered country, mostly in the violence-hit southern provinces.

Remnants of the ousted Taliban regime have accepted responsibility for many incidents, saying they would target any individual or agency working for the interest of Americans in the post-Taliban central Asian state.

The Taliban militants openly claimed responsibility for the killing of UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR) staff, the French lady Bettina Goislard in last November in Ghazni and later on in February for the shooting down of US firm Louis Berger's chopper in Kandahar.

Earlier this month the fundamentalist cell accepted responsibility for assassinating five staffs of the Dutch relief agency Medicines sans frontiers (MSF) in the northwest Badghis province.

The militias' spokesman Latif Hakimi labeled the aid agency MSFas a protege of the US, saying it was punished for its service of US interest in Afghanistan. But on the gruesome murder of Chinese workers, he said the incident "should not have happened."

Hekmatyar, leader of the outlawed radical Islamic party Hizb-e-Islami also refuted his loyalists' involvement in the attack by saying that his men would only target the Americans and Britons.

The reason behind the shocking incident has been haunting analysts as no one has been able to find a convincing argument to justify the attack while a handful of local observers attributed it to rivalry among foreign firms in the post-war nation.

"We cannot rule out the involvement of rival construction companies working in the country," Governor of Kunduz Mohammad Omar said without elaboration. But he added companies from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and other countries are engaged in rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan.

"Chinese workers become the victims of economic rivalry among various companies as many foreign firms including Turkish and US ones try to monopolize rebuilding projects in Afghanistan," said an analyst on condition of anonymity.

"Chinese laborers are cheap and their work is best known for their high standard. That is why rival companies want to get them out of biding for rebuilding projects in post-war Afghanistan," he stressed.

"Involving so many covert and overt factors in the tragic incident makes it difficult to determine the identity of terrorists behind the attack," observed the analyst.

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