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Amanpour: Worst violence since Taliban's fall

CNN's Christiane Amanpour
CNN's Christiane Amanpour  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped an assassination attempt Thursday when a gunman opened fire outside the Kandahar governor's house.

The man, who was wearing the uniform of the new Afghan army, fired shots at Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai and Karzai. The gunman was immediately shot dead, according to accounts. Sherzai was slightly wounded, but Karzai was unharmed and whisked away to safety.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour filed the following report Thursday:

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AMANPOUR: It is a day of unprecedented violence, perhaps the most violent day in Afghanistan since the Taliban was routed last year. What we know from Kandahar is that the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is there to attend the wedding of his younger brother. It appears that while he was visiting with the governor of Kandahar, shots were fired as the two were coming out of the governor's mansion.

The president, Hamid Karzai, is safe, we are told. Nobody hit him. But the governor of Kandahar did take some fire, and apparently he was wounded in the neck. He is currently being treated by U.S. Army doctors at the military base of the airport just outside of the city of Kandahar.

Hamid Karzai himself is protected by U.S. Special Forces. They have been protecting him for the last several months.

According to eyewitnesses there, when a person in an Afghan army uniform started to fire shots, Hamid Karzai's U.S. bodyguards sprang into action, told them to get cover, put him in the car, and the car sped off. We are told that he is safe.

This happened after a massive explosion in downtown Kabul. And it is not clear whether these two incidents are related. In Kabul earlier [Thursday] afternoon, there was first a small explosion, which drew onlookers, security forces.

Some minutes after that, [there was] another massive explosion, which caused heavy casualties. A security officer in charge of the security for Kabul said that it appeared that [it was a] massive car bomb; it was designed to cause maximum casualties.

And we still don't know the exact number. We know that dozens have been wounded and are being ferried to the hospitals here in Kabul. But we believe somewhere between 15 and 20 people may have been killed as well. No final casualty number has been released either by hospital or government officials.

Again, we had been told by security officials both from the government here, and the indeed from the U.S. forces and international peacekeepers to expect incidents in the lead-up to the anniversary of September 11. This is the most violent attack in Afghanistan since the Taliban was routed.

Already, Afghan security officials are blaming elements of the Taliban and al Qaeda and one factional warlord, who has promised or vowed to try to fight off the U.S. and international peacekeepers who are here right now. So security has always been a concern here. And some of people's worst fears have been realized.

We cannot say for sure who was the target, but the fact that the president was standing there and the fact that his security is paramount, and other attempts have been reported on his life -- none as close as this one, no such incident as close as this one -- makes certainly officials very concerned about his safety.

That is a big concern about members of the security forces, members of the various people who have joined bodyguard units and different Afghan national army units. People are concerned about the loyalty of these people and just who are joining up to join these forces.

And one of these big concerns forced the United States to encourage -- or rather to force -- Hamid Karzai to accept U.S. Special Forces as his bodyguards. And they did that for a reason.

Apparently, the governor of Kandahar was taken to the U.S. base there, which is at the airport. He was, eyewitnesses, say that he was conscious when he was there. People are saying that it does not appear to be life-threatening and that he is in surgery, that he had a wound to the neck and blood was clearly visible. All we can tell you is what we are being told, but this is very clearly a worrying situation.

And just to add here, President Karzai for months has been demanding, begging, pleading for more international security forces here, not just in Kabul, but around the country: to stabilize the country, to bring the kind of security that this country needs in order to be able to make sure that these kinds of criminal and terrorist attacks do not take place.

So far, neither the U.S. nor any other country has been willing to expand the international peacekeeping force nor put up the money, the personnel needed to put up an international peacekeeping force. But it's been very heavily on the mind of Hamid Karzai and his government for many, many months now.




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