18 Jun 2013

Nato handover to Afghan forces marred by blast

Three people are killed and dozens injured in a bomb attack in Kabul as Afghan forces take the lead for the country’s security from Nato forces.

Afghan bomb blast marrs Nato handover in Kabul (Image; Reuters)

The US-led Nato presence in Afghanistan will now move entirely into a supporting role, paving the way for a withdrawal of troops in 18 months.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country’s army and police are now responsible for fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The handover ceremony took place in Kabul after almost 12 years of war and was attended by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and President Karzai.

But the milestone for Afghanistan’s home forces was marred by a botched bomb attack just a few miles away on a prominent Afghan politican.

Kabul police said the blast was in the western part of the city and was targeting the convoy of Mohammed Mohaqiq, a prominent ethnic Hazara lawmaker who is a former cabinet member.

Mohaqiq survived the blast, according to Nahim Lalai Hamidzai, another member of the Afghan parliament.

Roadside bomb

Gener al-Mohammad Zahir, chief of the Kabul criminal investigation division, said three people were killed by the bombing and another 30 were wounded – including six bodyguards.

“The roadside bomb targeted the Mohaqiq convoy, but he safely passed. One of his vehicles was damaged,” Zahir said.

The leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, Mohaqiq is a member of the National Front, which represents members of the former Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban before the US invasion in 2001.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban persecuted the Hazara minority during their five-year rule that imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law.

The Taliban insurgency has been pressing an intense campaign of violence in the run-up to Tuesday’s security handover.

The transition is a major milestone of the 12-year-old war, with the coalition insisting Afghan security forces it has been training for years are now strong enough to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban.