Afghanistan's powerful defense minister is backing a rival to President Hamid Karzai in the country's coming elections, and has insisted he will not use violence to try to hang on to office, while the US military warned of more attacks leading up to the poll after aid workers were killed in a shooting. \nKarzai last week dropped Mohammed Fahim, a militia leader who also serves as deputy head-of-state, from his ticket for the Oct. 9 presidential vote. The surprise move split Karzai's Cabinet and put NATO troops in Kabul on alert for any reaction from Fahim's troops. \nIn his first public reaction, Fahim said Wednesday the decision was a "mistake" that had alienated many of the militia leaders who helped US forces oust the Taliban in late 2001. But he insisted that the upcoming power struggle would be peaceful. \n"The time to pick up a gun and fight is over," Fahim said. "Now is the time for politicians." \nKarzai ditched Fahim as his chief running mate after the minister failed to deliver on a pledge to disarm thousands of militia fighters under a UN program to make way for a new American-trained national army and prevent the country lapsing into civil war. \nThe world body has warned that warlords could use their guns to intimidate voters and candidates in order to consolidate their power -- a concern that helped delay parliamentary elections until the spring. \nKarzai opted instead for Ahmad Zia Massood, the brother of a slain resistance hero, saying he believed he was a better option to carry Afghanistan forward. \nFahim said the move prompted him and other veterans of the fight against Soviet occupation in the 1980s to back Education Minister Yunus Qanooni, one of 22 candidates running against the US-backed incumbent. \n"I'm supporting Mr. Qanooni along with some other ministers," Fahim said. "Karzai no longer has much support among the mujahidin." \nForeign Minister Abdullah has also backed Qanooni, forming an influential triumvirate of ethnic Tajiks from the north of the country. Ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum and Hazara warlord Mohammed Mohaqeq are also candidates. \nThe US military forecast more attacks on civilians yesterday -- possibly including a major strike in the capital -- after gunmen fired on a car carrying two Afghans from a German relief agency in a former Taliban stronghold, killing them both. \nThe aid workers were returning from work on Tuesday on a project run by the Malteser aid agency in Zurmat district of Paktia, 120km south of Kabul, when shots were fired at their car from a passing vehicle. \nMohammed Idrees Sadiq died at the scene, while the other, 19-year-old Emal Abdul Samad, succumbed to his injuries after being flown to a US military hospital at Bagram, north of Kabul, the group said Wednesday. \nThe German group said it was "shocked" and suspended its activities in the region until further notice. \nIt was not immediately clear who carried out the attack. Officials at the Malteser office in the capital, Kabul, said they didn't want to get involved in speculation. \nBut civilians have been increasingly targeted in a wave of violence that has left more than 700 people dead in Afghanistan this year, including 24 aid workers killed in attacks blamed mainly on Taliban militants. \nIngo Radtke, the head of the Malteser's foreign operations said the agency was "shocked by this terrible act and very concerned about the security situation which is increasingly tense also because of the approaching elections." \nAmerican commanders say militants are turning away from punishing confrontations with American forces and resorting to terrorist tactics. A bomb hit a vehicle carrying a mayor and a judge in central Afghanistan on Sunday, missing the officials but killing three of the judge's children, a local militia commander said.
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