- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Afghan officials, aided by planes sent from Britain, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, scrambled yesterday to take pilgrims to the annual trek in Mecca.
The urgency in moving pilgrims out of the airport developed after Afghanistan's aviation minister was killed at the Kabul airport last week during a riot among pilgrims furious about flight delays to Saudi Arabia.
Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai blamed the killing on high-ranking conspirators within his own government and it is not clear whether he was implying that the conspirators used the mob as cover or if he thinks they incited the riot.
A lack of flights has blocked thousands from making the journey, stirring anxiety in a nation struggling to consolidate a shaky peace.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, police found four rockets aimed at Karachi International Airport a half-mile from Terminal One, which is used by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, according to Waqar Mulan, an airport security official. Police suspected Islamic extremists were responsible.
Two of the rockets were aimed at the airport terminal used as a transport and supply hub for the coalition and two at an airport hotel used as a barracks by coalition forces, police said.
Karachi's police chief, Kamal Shah, said he doubted the rockets would have done much damage, but that they probably were intended as a statement of defiance by religious extremists opposed to President Pervez Musharraf.
In Afghanistan, U.S. land- and sea-based planes began air strikes against enemy forces in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend after coalition forces were attacked while trying to pass a roadblock, U.S. officials confirmed.
"Some forces encountered hostile enemy forces and called in aircraft to strike the enemy forces," said Lt. Col. Mark Compton, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command.

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