Karzai escapes again as Taliban attack parade

Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, narrowly escaped assassination yesterday, when Taliban militants attacked a military parade in the capital, Kabul.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos as thousands of troops and dignitaries fled the city's main parade ground under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. At least three people were killed, including an MP and a tribal leader who were sitting just a few metres away from the President's podium. Eleven more were injured.

It was the fourth attempt on Mr Karzai's life since he came to power more than five years ago.

Mr Karzai was due to make a speech at the ceremony, on a national holiday, to mark the end of Communist rule in Afghanistan. Instead he was bundled into an armoured 4x4 as Taliban gunmen, hidden in a nearby hotel room, opened fire on the VIP grandstand overlooking the parade ground. He later appeared on television saying that some suspects had been arrested and blamed "the enemy of Afghanistan" for the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban. The three attackers were killed.

Britain's ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, and William Wood, the American envoy, were among 200 foreign dignitaries and military officers at the event. Sir Sherard said he saw a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a mud compound before small-arms fire erupted around them. The first shots came during an artillery gun salute.

"We were about 15 rounds into the 21 gun salute when I noticed a puff of smoke in the distance, coming from a mud building at the southern end of the parade ground. It must have been a rocket-propelled grenade. Then the President's protective detail started firing southwards," he said.

Live television pictures showed two officials sitting close to President Karzai slump in their chairs when the shooting started, one of them collapsed on to the floor. The President was whisked away in a black 4x4, while the shooting continued for about 10 minutes.

There were hundreds of troops lined up on a large open square in front of the capital's grandest mosque, as part of the ceremonial review, but none of them had any ammunition, Sir Sherard said, so they started lying down or running.

Other soldiers, tasked to protect the President, began shooting back at the third floor window, a few hundred metres from the VIP stand where Sir Sherard was standing with Mr Wood.

The pair struggled to take cover on the exposed concrete stand. "We got down behind the parapets and our respective bodyguards frogmarched us to the back of the reviewing stands where there was chaos and more gunfire in all directions," said Sir Sherard. "The US ambassador's protected vehicle was there. We drove off followed by our respective close protection teams, to the American embassy."

"Everyone reacted professionally and quickly," said Mr Wood. Asked whether the attack was likely to heighten security fears in Kabul, he said that "terrorist attacks have dramatically gone down in Kabul, but everyone is aware of the risk and people do a very good job protecting against it".

The attack came shortly after President Karzai had driven up and down his soldiers' ranks in an American Humvee armoured vehicle. He was due to make a speech before saluting a fly-by of Afghanistan's new attack helicopters, transport planes and L-39 jets.

Sir Sherard said the incident reminded him of the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, which took place in similar circumstances, when he was a young diplomat in Cairo.

Security at the parade ground was supposed to be tight, following an announcement last month that Afghan forces are ready to take over from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. Police officers at the parade ground blamed the Ministry of Defence for failing to prevent the attack, but the MoD troops who stormed the hotel room where the attackers were based insisted police and intelligence officials should have cleared the buildings looking over the parade.

The soldiers said the three gunmen in the hotel room were armed with two AK-47 assault rifles and a PK light anti-aircraft gun, as well as boxes of ammunition and grenades.

A soldier who identified himself as Sergeant Amin said troops arrested more than 30 people at the hotel, one of five buildings more than one storey high near the parade ground.

Gordon Brown phoned Mr Karzai moments after the attack to express his relief at the President's safety. A gunman tried to shoot the President in Kandahar in 2002. In 2004, his helicopter survived a rocket attack en route to Gardez, and in June 2007, a dozen rockets landed close to where he was giving a speech in Ghazni. His father was murdered by the Taliban in 1999.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice