- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

JALALABAD, Afghanistan Vice President Abdul Qadir was buried yesterday with full military honors a day after he was gunned down in an attack that Afghans fear may bring new instability to a nation struggling to build peace after decades of war.
An estimated 10,000 people followed Mr. Qadir's body as it was transported on a gun carriage from Jalalabad's White Mosque to Amir Shaheed Gardens in the city center. Afghan troops in full uniform marched in the procession.
As the body was lowered into the grave wrapped in a green, red and black Afghan flag, a Pashto-language poem read over a loudspeaker hailed Mr. Qadir as "a unique man" and "a hero of Afghanistan." Seven shots were fired into the air, and mourners wept and chanted his name.
Mr. Qadir, who also served as minister of public works and governor of Nangarhar province, died Saturday in a hail of bullets after two gunmen opened fire on his vehicle as it was leaving his office in Kabul. His driver, who was also a son-in-law, was killed, too, but the gunmen escaped.
President Hamid Karzai will call for foreign help in solving the case if local authorities are unable to make progress in their own investigation, Afghan television reported yesterday.
State-run television said two men had been detained for questioning after they were stopped at a Kabul checkpoint in a car similar to the one used by the killers for their getaway.
Mr. Qadir's body was flown here to the Nangarhar capital from Kabul aboard a helicopter provided by the international peacekeeping force after a prayer service attended by Mr. Karzai and thousands of mourners.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Turkish Army Col. Samet Oz, spokesman for the 5,000-strong international peacekeeping force in Kabul, described the killing as "an individual attack designed to destabilize the transitional government."
Mr. Qadir was the most prominent ethnic Pashtun in the government after Mr. Karzai, and his assassination threatens to stir here in Nangarhar province, a relatively wealthy trading and opium poppy-growing region that borders Pakistan.
Instability in such a key region could complicate efforts by the Karzai government to extend its authority beyond Kabul. Mr. Qadir was one of five vice presidents appointed during last month's grand council, or loya jirga, to bring ethnic balance into a government that had been dominated by ethnic Tajiks.
During a speech to the mourners, Afghan Chief Justice Fazle Hadi Shinwari promised the government was doing everything possible to find the killers, and he urged people to remain calm.
"This is a test for the people of Afghanistan, of Nangarhar," Mr. Shinwari said. "They should be aware of this and pass this test."
Mr. Qadir was a figure in Afghan politics for nearly 25 years, and residents said a number of groups could have been responsible for his death.
As Nangarhar's governor before the Taliban took power, Mr. Qadir welcomed Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan in 1996. Later, he joined the opposition Northern Alliance, which overran Kabul after the Taliban fled intensive U.S. bombing.
"We are very upset over the killing of Haji Qadir," said one of the mourners, Gul Badshas. "It's a conspiracy against the Afghans because when we are closer to peace and stability in Afghanistan, this incident happened."
Throughout the day, armed police manned checkpoints on all approaches to Jalalabad and roamed the largely deserted streets. One man was arrested in front of the White Mosque carrying a small amount of explosives, security chief Ajab Shah said. The man was being questioned and the explosives were being analyzed.
The ceremonies earlier in Kabul were held at the Eid Gah mosque in the old city. Hundreds of Afghan and international troops cordoned off the area, and peacekeeper helicopters hovered overhead.
"This is a tragedy for my family," said Din Mohammed, an brother. "I don't know whom to blame."
Mourners included veterans of the 1980s war against Soviet invaders, in which Mr. Qadir had served as a commander.
"We are so sad. This is a big loss, and it is a big loss for all of Afghanistan," said Haji Saki, a former guerrilla fighter with Mr. Qadir. "Whoever did this must pay."

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