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Assassinated Afghan Leader Mourned While Some Doubt Promise of Justice

By Alissa J. Rubin
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- KABUL, Afghanistan

The Afghan flag flew at half-staff throughout the country and radio programs were banned from playing music during a national day of mourning Tuesday for slain Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir, as many Afghans expressed doubts that his killers will be caught.

In particular, many of Qadir’s fellow ethnic Pashtuns said they thought the case will be treated much as was that of Air Transportation and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman, who was slain Feb. 14. Then, the government pledged to bring the killers to justice and even named suspects, but none was arrested.

“They will not find the murderers of Haji Qadir,” said Shamal Hoda, 25, a medical student who attended the special prayers held Tuesday for Qadir at a mosque here in central Kabul. “It will be the same as it was with Minister Abdul Rahman. In that case the murderers are known but they are not arrested.

“Those who killed Haji Qadir are supported by great powers,” Hoda said. “He was killed in the middle of Kabul.”

Transitional President Hamid Karzai, along with hundreds of others, attended the prayers and said he had lost “my brother and my right hand.” He promised Qadir’s family and friends that the killers would be brought to justice.

Qadir was slain Saturday by a pair of gunmen as he drove away from his office in the Afghan capital.

A close examination of the many people who might have killed him reads like a litany of Afghanistan’s problems and the difficulties facing the new government as it attempts to install the rule of law.

Suspects include ethnic rivals; drug dealers who lost money as a result of Qadir’s policies; outside provocateurs, such as former Taliban members or warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and members of the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, who helped oust the Taliban from Kabul last year and preferred in positions of authority other figures from Qadir’s home turf in eastern Afghanistan.

The Afghan police authorities, which are dominated by Tajiks, say they are pursuing the case, but it is hard to get any specifics about what they are doing. Police quickly arrested 10 security guards posted at the Ministry of Public Works, which was near the site of the assassination, but few people think they are the culprits. Two other men were arrested later and little is known about them.

Police Chief Gen. Abdul Basir, a former Northern Alliance commander, said his investigation is focusing on Hekmatyar and on the family of Commander Shomali, a local warlord in eastern Afghanistan. Basir said he is leaning toward the theory that the former is responsible.