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Anti-Taliban leader Kabul streets turn violent in annual observance of death of Ahmad Shah Massoud

Sept. 9 is supposed to be a solemn day on the Afghan calendar, the date in 2001 when Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban leader, was killed by Al Qaeda just before the Sept. 11 attacks
INP
KABUL
In what has become an annual breakdown of law and order, the Afghan Capital, Kabul turned into a scene of chaos on Saturday with little visible sign of government control. Young men armed with knives and Kalashnikov rifles sped around Kabul, firing into the air and terrorizing residents, who mostly stayed indoors, The New York Times reported.
Sept. 9 is supposed to be a solemn day on the Afghan calendar, the date in 2001 when Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban leader, was killed by Al Qaeda just before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
But year after year, the occasion has turned into a show of force by unruly supporters of Mr. Massoud, largely northerners disenchanted with the government.
The occasion highlights the Afghan political leadership’s lack of influence with disenfranchised groups in the capital, even at a time when Taliban pressure is increasing in districts and cities around the country.
The police found themselves both outgunned and outnumbered. The city felt “balkanized,” as one Western official described it; barricades blocked Mr. Massoud’s supporters from entering neighborhoods populated with supporters of rival factions, an effort to prevent the deadly clashes of previous years.
“It was a wild day all over,” said Abdul Naser, 22, who sells cigarettes and cold drinks on the main road between the Kabul airport and the United States Embassy, blocked to traffic for much of the day as armed supporters of Mr. Massoud marched. Mr. Naser said the police had asked him to close shop in the morning out of fear of violence, but he refused because he needed the money.
The Massoud supporters repeatedly beat police officers trying to keep order, Mr. Naser said, and tried to force their way past barricades and into the diplomatic area of the city. They refused to let an ambulance pass their convoy, he added, and threatened to beat the driver.
“I saw Massoud supporters slapping police officers two or three times,” Mr. Naser said, adding that supporters “fired dozens of rounds into the air.”
Tensions were particularly high ahead of this year’s anniversary, following a peace deal the government made with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of Mr. Massoud’s main rivals from the civil war of the 1990s. In the vacuum of power left after the Soviet withdrawal, the militias of the two men, as well as several other groups, turned Kabul into rubble.
Several former Northern Alliance commanders have responded to Mr. Hekmatyar with the same fury, a reminder of how raw the rivalries that ripped the country apart remain.



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