Herat bomb seems to contradict warlord

 

An explosion at a military base in Herat killed five people, just hours after the regional war lord said he would not accept UN peacekeepers in his province.

Mr Ismail Khan, the commander of Herat, who has been critical of the United Nations brokered peace deal in Afghanistan, told reporters at the governor's mansion that he did not need international peacekeepers.

"All the Mujahadeen has come together and agreed that we don't need foreign forces here. If they come here and become an everyday presence, it will bring reaction against them. All around the cities we have military men, rules and regulations though there is no need for foreign forces.

Just three hours later, an explosion racked Herat, blowing windows out of buildings as far as three miles away.

The blast occurred at Qulordo military base, which is the home of Mr Khan's armed forces. Minutes after the first explosion, which produced a mushroom cloud, we saw trails of rocket or missile tracers in the sky.

Schrapnel landed two kilometres from the blast as soldiers began running from the base as the ammunition depot began exploding.

Residents huddled in doorways. "There may be a bigger bomb," said one fleeing soldier. Meanwhile, several vehicles filled with heavy artillery and soldiers sped towards the base.

The cause of the explosion was unknown. Two eye witnesses said they saw a missile hit the depot. But others said the explosion came from inside, where weapons and shells were being moved about.

Mr Kahn had himself just left the location after a meeting. He returned just after the explosion.

Some eight people were admitted to the only hospital in Herat, a 400-bed facility that is served with electricity for only nine hours each day.

"We had one soldier dead on arrival with an abdominal wound" said Dr Azizi, the physician on duty. The other injured men were being treated in darkened rooms, some of them still lying on blood-soaked beds. "Morphine? No, that is rare here. We don't have many medicines. We need antibiotics, anaesthesia, even stretchers," said Dr Azizi.

Mr Kahn continued to insist that the UN has foisted an unwanted deal on Afghanistan, even as his son has been named Minister of Labour.

"The United Nations bringing in the interim administration into Kabul was a misunderstanding. Now there is a big problem." He said that the Taliban bomb would have turned in their weapons or their guns as well as Osama bin Laden if former President Burhanuddin Rabbani had been permitted to govern. The aftermath of the explosions provided sharp contrast to Mr Khan's statements about security and order in Herat.

Within an hour Kalashnikov rocket launchers and grenades could be seen being carried throughout the city as soldiers set up checkpoints. A quiet city had literally transformed within an hour to another heavily armed and nervous fortress.

In London, Afghanistan's interim government and British officials have not signed an agreement on deploying a multinational peacekeeping force because a key document had not been translated into the local Dari dialect, the Ministry of Defence said.