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Afghans vow assassination won't derail peace

Qadir was shot as he arrived by car at his office Saturday.  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Afghan and U.S. governments vowed Saturday that the assassination of one of the country's deputy presidents will not derail efforts to bring peace and stability to the country.

Afghan Deputy President Haji Abdul Qadir and his driver died in a hail of bullets outside the gates of a government ministry Saturday in Kabul.

"Whoever is behind this cowardly act is considered by the government first of all as a terrorist," Afghan government spokesman Omar Samad said. "They are not going to deter us from the path that we have started towards, bringing peace and stability to the country," he added.

His message was echoed by President Bush, speaking to reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine.

"We are more resolved than ever to bring stability to the country," Bush said.

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As Qadir's black Toyota Land Cruiser drove through the gates of the Ministry of Public Works, two men jumped from behind some bushes and opened fire.

The windshield was riddled with bullet holes, and the window next to the front passenger seat was completely blown out in the attack. The vehicle continued to come under fire until it struck a wall.

Government spokesman Mar Sam at said the killers were standing near the gate when they shot Qadir.

"As they fired the last shots, a car which looks like a taxi cab ... came and picked them up and fled," he said.

Bush: 'A good man is dead'

Qadir, a member of Afghanistan's largest ethnic bloc, the Pashtun, also served as the minister of public works in Afghanistan's transitional government. He had helped fight the Taliban as a former Northern Alliance commander in eastern Afghanistan. (Profile)

Video of the scene showed Qadir's vehicle riddled with bullet holes, and the vehicle's interior was covered in blood.

The slain official was one of three vice presidents chosen by last month's grand council to serve in the Cabinet of President Hamid Karzai, and was a former governor of Niagara province.

Afghan officials later arrested several members of Qadir's security personnel for negligence, an interior ministry official told CNN. Armed military personnel from the international security forces assigned to Kabul surrounded the area.

The United States has offered the Afghan government help to track down those responsible for the attack. Bush said his administration mourned the loss of Qadir, a man who fought for freedom and security but said it was too soon to know who was behind the attack.

"It could be drug lords. It could be rivals. Who knows? All we know is that a good man is dead, and we mourn his loss."

Questions about security

The car was riddled with bullets  

Qadir is the second Afghan Cabinet minister to be assassinated this year: In February, the Afghan minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Abdul Brahman was assassinated at Kabul airport. (Full story)

In addition, four people were killed and 20 others injured when a bomb exploded near a convoy carrying Afghanistan's interim defense minister Mohammed Fahim in April. (Full story)

Afghan government officials called Saturday's shooting a terrorist act.

"It could be any one of different enemies of Afghanistan, of peace, of reconstruction in this country," Samad said.

"Whoever they are, we are sure they are terrorists because this was an Afghan national ... a leader with a long history of struggle for the freedom of his country."

Qadir was brother of legendary rebel commander Abdul Haq, who was captured and hanged by the Taliban last year after slipping into the country to organize resistance to the Islamic militia.

Samad said Qadir eschewed personal security, believing guards kept him too separate from the people of Afghanistan. He had no security guards with him in the vehicle, Samad said.

"He did not really believe in having a lot of security guards around him," Samad said




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