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Afghan Leader Appeals for Peace at Funeral of Slain - 2002-02-16


Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has appealed for peace at the funeral of a cabinet minister who, he says, was assassinated by officials in his own administration.

The casket of slain Aviation and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman -- draped with a black, green and red Afghan flag -- was carried through a crowd of several hundred mourners in the streets of Kabul (Saturday) to the central mosque.

Mr. Rahman was killed at Kabul airport Thursday under violent and mysterious circumstances. Witnesses and initial official accounts say he was killed by a mob of Muslim pilgrims furious over delayed flights to Mecca. But interim leader Karzai late Friday blamed high-ranking officials in his own government.

At the funeral, Afghanistan's top leadership -- including Foreign Minister Abdullah, Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim and Interior Minister Yunus Qanooni -- made a show of unity.

Mr. Rahman's slaying and Hamid Karzai's casting of blame on a faction in his own government highlights the internal rivalries within the new leadership, as it struggles to reunite Afghanistan's 22-million people after more than two decades of war.

Afghan authorities have detained three people suspected of involvement in the murder plot. Saudi Arabia has said it is willing to extradite three others, who are believed to have left Afghanistan on a pilgrimage flight.

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