Afghan vice president unhurt in attack on police academy

McClatchy NewspapersJune 15, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's second vice president and the country's interior minister were uninjured Wednesday when Taliban insurgents fired a mortar at the opening ceremony of a vast new police training academy outside Kabul.

Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman for the governor of Maidan Wardak province, where the academy is located, said the dedication had ended and the vice president, Mohammed Karim, and the interior minister, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, were leaving when the shell landed about 300 yards away.

"The ceremony was over," Shahid said. "No one was hurt."

Maidan Wardak province, which is about 25 miles west of Kabul, is the site of regular Taliban attacks on NATO supply convoys on the highway from Kabul to southwest Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, the Taliban have targeted top government officials and NATO commanders as part of their spring offensive. There was no word, however, from Taliban spokesmen about the target of Wednesday's attack.

A year ago, suspected Taliban fired mortars from a nearby house while President Hamid Karzai was speaking to more than a thousand representatives who'd gathered for a conference on possible peace talks. Karzai had survived a previous attack in 2008, when Taliban insurgents started firing from a nearby building on a military parade commemorating the victory of mujahedeen fighters over the Soviet-backed communist government.

The police academy that was dedicated Wednesday is the largest such facility in Afghanistan. It was built over the past two years with $110 million provided by NATO. Shahid said it was expected to have a capacity of 4,000 trainees. Currently, about 750 are enrolled.

Also on Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least seven people, including two police officers, when he detonated his explosives-laden minivan at a checkpoint in Kapisa province, north of Kabul.

Col. Ameenullah Ameen, the province's acting police chief, said the bomber most likely was headed to the governor's compound when the police ordered him to stop and be searched.

"By sacrificing themselves, our police were able to prevent a major incident inside the governor compound," Ameen said.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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