Assembly Passes Off Peacefully

Assembly Passes Off Peacefully

Tuesday, 6 January, 2004

The most forthright remarks about the issue came from United Nations Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in his closing speech on January 4.

Brahimi told the assembly that warlords who use guns for their own advantage must be stopped – and that this was the duty of the government and ISAF.

“I know some commanders who have private jails and imprison people for their own benefit,” said Brahimi. “These [individuals] take their captives’ land, money and daughters by force.

“I also know some people who call themselves mujahed and terrorise their region, and say that they have the support of important people. I know of some police who do likewise.

“I have told the government to ban these people, as they have given a bad name to mujaheddin and jihad.”

When President Hamed Karzai finished his closing ceremony speech – which followed Brahimi’s remarks - the powerful northern commander General Abdul Rashid Dostam walked up to the podium and handed him a note, which the president read out. In it, Dostum promised to release prisoners currently being held in his own private jail.

Some observers and jirga attendees had feared that there would be security problems at the assembly.

A number of people attending the event claimed that they had been threatened, while two coalition soldiers deployed in the Loya Jirga tent told IWPR that knives and guns had been confiscated from delegates.

The government, ISAF, the UN and the United States had been particularly concerned about the security within Kabul during the course of the gathering.

However, it was less of an issue than expected, with the exception of a suicide bomb incident near Kabul airport on December 28.

The bomber killed himself and five members of the intelligence forces - including Abdul Jalal, Defence Minister Marshall Fahim’s bodyguard - after he was stopped and questioned near the airport.

According to an intelligence department source, the assailant was a 35-year-old Chechen named Abdul Rahman, who was travelling by car with an Afghan accomplice, who has not been named.

Intelligence agents stopped and searched the car, removing a bomb. They then took the Chechen to their car, and when they were inside it, the suspect detonated further explosives. The bomber's Afghan accomplice is still in custody.

A senior policeman said at the time that "the bombing was the work of al-Qaeda and the Taleban in order to frighten the people, and that they wanted to sabotage the Loya Jirga".

Taleban spokesperson Abdul Samad confirmed that they were responsible for the attack and warned of more to come. But this was cast into doubt when Hamid Aqa, who also claims to speak for the remains of the former ruling regime, categorically denied any involvement.

In a separate incident, the following day Kabul police arrested two Pakistani men near the presidential palace. When apprehended, they were wearing female wedding clothes covered by burqas. Also arrested with them was an Afghan man, Gulshee from Nangarhar province.

A senior interior ministry official, who did not want to be named, told IWPR that the three men had confessed to being Taleban and followers of al-Qaeda, who were specifically planning to disrupt the Loya Jirga. However, he admitted that the men were carrying no weapons or explosives when arrested.

The suicide bomb and the arrest of the two Pakistanis followed soon after the Taleban had distributed instructions from the movement's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, calling on Afghans to raise their voices "against the ongoing Loya Jirga, to rise up against America and not to accept the constitution".

During the early stages of the assembly, several rockets were fired on Kabul, but there were no casualties.

According to a interior ministry security update, 14 suspected Taleban activists were arrested in Kabul province last week. The report said that in the eastern Sarobi district, 40 missiles were captured during the same period.

Associated Press said that a month-long security operation along the Pakistan border by US and Afghan government forces to coincide with the Loya Jirga came to an end last week.

During this time, ten suspected members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda were killed and twenty more arrested, according to American military sources. Two Afghan soldiers were also killed, they said.

Bashir Gwakh is an independent journalist from Jalalabad participating in IWPR reporting Loya Jirga project.

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