Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Two arrested over murdered Chinese

AFGHANISTAN Despite denying responsibility for the killing of 11 Chinese workers, a Taliban spokesman said more attacks would follow ahead of the general elections

AFP , KABUL

The wife, center right, of Jiang Jiashu, one of the 11 Chinese workers slain in a terrorist attack by gunmen in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, weeps upon hearing the news of the tragedy, in Guangfeng County in China's Jiangxi Province on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Two men have been arrested following the shocking murders of 11 Chinese construction workers in Afghanistan, according to the government in Beijing, but mystery remains as to who masterminded the brutal attack.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that two people had been detained over the killings while a provincial police chief said one man, a local, had been arrested and that investigations were continuing.

"Based on the information we received, we arrested one suspect called Mullah Tor," Mutalib Bek told reporters on Friday from northeastern Kunduz province. "He was on his way toward Kunduz," city when he was picked up, he said.

The Taliban militia has denied responsibility for the killings, which occurred in the early hours of Thursday as 100 Chinese engineers, laborers and managers slept in tents pitched on a plain in northeast Kunduz province, some 36km south of the provincial capital of the same name.

"We deny the accusation of killing the Chinese workers in Kunduz province of Afghanistan," Abdul Latif Hakimi, who claims to represent the ousted militia, told reporters on Friday by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Hakimi said the deaths "should not have happened."

Local police were also unsure as to why the Chinese, along with one Afghan police guard, were cut down by machinegun fire as they slept in tents pitched inside a building site set back some 200m to 300m from the road.

The killers appeared to know where to direct their fire, as the group of 20 who were armed with machine guns had attacked the most crowded of the tents, according to a journalist who viewed the site.

Seven of the eight people in this first tent died and one was wounded.

Most of those killed had only arrived in the area, some 200km of Kabul, the day before.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, in the US after attending the G8 summit and the funeral of former US president Ronald Reagan, said the government could not say who was responsible for the attack.

"We still say whoever it was, it is the enemies of Afghanistan, and it's people who are against reconstruction," spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad said from the US on Friday. "We can't really say who."

However, he stressed that the incident would not weaken the government's resolve to hold elections as planned in September despite Taliban threats of violence at the polls.

"Elections must go on," Ahmad said. "The incident that happened should not stop the election process."

Kunduz was one of the last pockets of Taliban resistance following the 2001 US-led offensive against the regime following the September 11 terror attacks in the US.

Despite denying responsibility for the latest attack, the Taliban spokesman said his militants were behind the June 2 killing of three Europeans working for Medecins Sans Frontieres and their two Afghan colleagues in the country's northwest.

Hakimi told reporters on Friday that the ousted extremists were organizing for a "holy uprising" ahead of the general elections.

"Taliban are an organized power. You will witness organized and regular attacks in the north of the country, same as the south," he said. "We have made this holy uprising to bring an Islamic government to the country and fight the Americans who want to weaken Islam in Afghanistan."

The US military, which leads some 20,000 international troops in the country, said yesterday that the two latest attacks in the north could not be taken as an indication of the spread of violence in the south against Taliban al-Qaeda and other militants around the country.

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