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Afghan minister killed as pilgrims storm plane

Abdul Rahman
Rahman, right, receives flowers during a visit to India in January.  

From CNN Producer Lonzo Cook

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Frustrated Hajj pilgrims, some of whom had waited two days for flights to Saudi Arabia, stormed a plane carrying Afghanistan's minister of civil aviation and tourism Thursday and beat him to death, security officials told CNN.

Dr. Abdul Rahman and about 20 other passengers were on an Ariana Airlines Boeing 727 destined for India when as many as 100 pilgrims discovered he was aboard, Afghan Interior Ministry Gen. Fatah Forough said.

The pilgrims then pushed their way onto the plane and kicked and beat Rahman, officials said.

Rahman, who was traveling alone, died Thursday en route to a hospital, an Afghan military official told CNN.

Attackers also beat the president of Ariana Airlines, Rohullah Aman, inside the airport before Afghan security forces intervened.

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Aman was then handed over to international security forces, who took him to a hospital, where he was in stable condition.

Formerly Afghanistan's national carrier, Ariana made its first international flight in 2 1/2 years in late January. Both Rahman and Aman were on that flight from Kabul to New Delhi, India.

The pilgrims had planned to fly from Afghanistan to Mecca, where they would join about two million other Muslims from more than 70 countries.

The pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, is part of the framework of Islamic life: All Muslims who are physically and financially able are expected to perform the Hajj at least once.

Some of the pilgrims in Kabul had been waiting for two days outside the airport's terminal building on the apron of the runway, hoping to get a seat on a Saudi-bound flight.

The airport has no departure lounge, forcing the pilgrims to endure several cold nights.

No one had been arrested or taken into custody in connection with Rahman's death or Aman's beating more than eight hours after the attacks. But approximately 900 people did take off on two flights to Mecca after the incidents.

Early Friday, another 100 people were still waiting to board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

The flight to India, on which Rahman had been a passenger, was canceled.


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