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Raging Mob Kills Afghan Minister

An angry mob of pilgrims has killed Afghan Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman. The pilgrims had been waiting two days for their flight. When that flight appeared to have been cancelled, they turned on the minister.

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Police tried to save him but were unable to do so

Anarchy broke out on the runway of Kabul airport when about 1,000 pilgrims, destined for Mecca, heard rumours that their flight had been cancelled.

They had been waiting for two days and two women had died from cold during that time in the war-scarred airport terminal, the pilgrims said.

Afghanistan’s minister for air transport and tourism turned up and wanted to take the plane they had been waiting for. That’s what they thought anyway.

The rumour spread that " that he cancelled one of the flights ... in order to use the plane to travel to India with his family", said the Qatar-based television channel Al-Jazeera.

The mob killed him.

One pilgrim, named Mirza, told Reuters he had been at the airport for two days waiting for a flight. He said the pilgrims had paid $1,500 for the promised flights, a fortune for ordinary Afghans.

"Four people went inside the plane, dragged the minister out and killed him on the spot," Mirza told Reuters.

Foreign reporters could not reach Kabul to independently verify the report by al-Jazeera, because of a curfew.

The pilgrims were desperate to get to Mecca, because Saudi officials have said visitors from abroad must arrive by Sunday to perform the annual pilgrimage known as haj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Airport sources said two planes carrying 890 pilgrims later left for Mecca.

Security Failure

The incident makes clear that personal safety still cannot be guaranteed in war-torn Afghanistan.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the multinational force helping to maintain security in the capital is deployed in the military section of Kabul airport, but the civilian side is guarded by Afghan security forces.

They obviously failed to do so. But so far, conflicting reports have been filed about the incident, which took place at around 6:00pm (13:30 GMT). Foreign journalists were not able to get into the airport for some time afterwards.

In Kabul, the interim government met late on Thursday to discuss the killing.

The leader of Afghanistan’s interim government, Hamid Karzai, called for more international security forces to do the job they said they came to do.

Frustration also rose in the southern city of Kandahar after officials there told pilgrims that the US forces who control its airport had refused permission for them to use it.

It is the first time in decades that no Haj flights have left the city.

The row has fuelled the hostility felt by many of southern Afghanistan's Pashtuns towards the US forces camped at the airport and the interim Afghan government in Kabul.

Meanwhile, according to a report by Reuters, US planes dropped envelopes containing two $100 bills and bearing a picture of President George W. Bush to win hearts and minds in southern Afghanistan.

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