British paratroops shoot man dead in Kabul gun battle

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The Independent Online

An Afghani man was shot dead in a gun battle with British soldiers on peacekeeping duties in Kabul early yesterday morning.

The gun battle, the first involving peacekeepers, started after an observation post manned by six Paratroopers came under fire at 1.35am local time yesterday. The soldiers returned fire, and their attackers fled in a vehicle.

The British soldiers, who were uninjured during the attack, were immediately evacuated. The dead body was later found in a nearby house by a joint British-Afghani patrol, alongside five other wounded Afghanis.

"The situation is pretty unclear. One person is dead, we think from a bullet wound, but the other five were not injured by bullets," said Colonel Richard Barons, chief of staff with the International Security Assistance Force.

The attack was the first against the 4,000 members of the 17-nation peacekeeping force, which includes about 1,800 British soldiers.

The continuing lawlessness was further underlined when an Afghani aid worker with Unicef was seriously injured by gunmen in Mazar-i-Sharif and a second Afghani, working for a British charity called Focus, was feared kidnapped in the city.

The incidents in Mazar-i-Sharif were "a warning to all of us", said Eric Laroche, the head of Unicef in Afghanistan. "There's undoubtedly increased insecurity in the city."

The gun battle in Kabul came only a few hours after Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, had left the city following talks with the Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, which included discussions on the possible extension of the force's UN mandate.

* An Australian soldier was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and died in southern Afghanistan late last night of wounds received from what was believed to have been an anti-vehicle mine.