- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan A bomb tore through a crowd lining a road to welcome Afghanistan's defense minister yesterday, killing at least four persons and injuring 18 in what officials said was another attempt to destabilize the interim government.
Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim was not hurt by the bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad. An aide called it an assassination attempt aimed at destabilizing the country.
In a day of stark reminders of the country's tumultuous struggle for stability, at least one person was killed and four were wounded when poppy farmers in eastern Afghanistan fired on government officials beginning an ambitious campaign to eradicate the opium-producing flowers.
Meanwhile, international peacekeepers said Kabul police had discovered four more Chinese-made rockets aimed toward a camp housing German and Danish troops at the site used to launch two missiles over the weekend.
No one was injured in the weekend attack, but peacekeepers said they believed it was part of a campaign to damage the interim administration of Hamid Karzai before the loya jirga, a national council that meets in June to select a new government.
Mr. Fahim had traveled to Jalalabad yesterday to meet with local commanders and tribal leaders and discuss, among other issues, poppy eradication.
As he made his way to the governor's house, a bomb exploded in front of his convoy, killing and wounding townspeople who had turned out to greet him, officials said.
Mr. Karzai's chief spokesman, Yusuf Nuristani, said he did not want to speculate on the bombers' motives. But Mir Ajan, a Defense Ministry official, called it an assassination attempt by outlaws "trying to destabilize the country and disrupt the minister's plans."
Officials said no arrests had been made in the attack, and Mr. Fahim returned to the capital later in the day.
The start of the anti-poppy program was linked to the outbreak of violence in several places, as poppy farmers protested that the government's offer of cash to destroy poppy flowers falls far short of the narcotic's eventual market value.
Authorities have said they will destroy the crops if farmers do not.
In Nangarhar province, about 40 miles east of Jalalabad, farmers opened fire on provincial officials surveying their fields along the Pakistan-Afghan Highway, killing one person and wounding four, said a provincial government official.

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