- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan — Four intelligence agents and their driver were killed in a suicide bombing in the Afghan capital yesterday, the latest violent incident during a closely guarded convention drawing up the country’s post-Taliban constitution.

The bomber detonated explosives concealed under his clothing moments after the agents bundled him into a sport utility vehicle near the airport, Kabul police chief Baba Jan said.

Mr. Jan said the bomber was a foreigner, but refused to identify him further. Other officials said identification of the bodies was difficult owing to the mutilation.

“[The agents] had just arrested him with explosives,” Mr. Jan told reporters near the scene. “This guy had more explosives on his body, and when they took him inside the car, he blew himself up.”

Police cordoned off the road while fire crews doused the wreckage. Officials gathered body parts from the twisted metal littering the road.

Abdul Jamil, head of Kabul police’s criminal investigation department, said the agents had seized the man with a bomb packed into a pressure cooker. Another man got away, Mr. Jamil said.

It was not clear whether the pressure-cooker bomb also went off, feeding the fireball that engulfed the vehicle.

“He was a suicide bomber. Why else would he have these explosives on his body?” Mr. Jamil said by telephone.

A senior intelligence official said there have been general warnings about suicide bombings for months. It also was not clear whether the loya jirga site, about six miles away, had been the intended target.

Four German peacekeepers were killed and 29 wounded in a suicide attack on their bus in June. In October, the German commander of the peacekeeping force warned of a “new species” of well-trained terrorists, perhaps allied to al Qaeda, infiltrating the capital.

The Afghan official said on the condition of anonymity that an Iraqi and an Uzbek were detained last year on suspicions of plotting suicide attacks, but recent intelligence “was never very specific.”

The blast was the latest in a series of security scares since the historic constitutional convention started in the capital two weeks ago.

Yesterday, the head of the convention was distributing a new draft of the charter after wrangling over issues such as women’s rights, Islam and the balance of power in a future government.

Council Chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi gave no details of the amendments to the 160-article document proposed by the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai last month.

The first draft envisioned a tolerant Islamic state under a strong presidency, a system Mr. Karzai argues is essential as the country recovers from civil war and confronts a violent comeback by the deposed Taliban regime.

But the leaders of armed factions who fought Soviet occupation in the 1980s and helped U.S. forces oust the Taliban two years ago accuse Mr. Karzai of accumulating dictatorial powers.

“The majority do want a presidential system, but with a strong parliament, too,” said Najia Emag, one of 100 female delegates at the jirga. “This will be brought to the plenary for a vote.”

Religious hard-liners at the council, meanwhile, are pushing for a more conservative adherence to Shariah, or Islamic law.

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